Cancerous brain tumours are notorious for growing back despite surgical attempts to remove them — and for leading to a dire prognosis for patients.
But scientists are developing a new way to try to root out malignant cells during surgery so fewer or none get left behind to form new tumours.
The method, reported in the journal ACS Nano, could someday vastly improve the outlook for patients.
Moritz F. Kircher and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center point out that malignant brain tumours, particularly the kind known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), are among the toughest to beat.
Although relatively rare, GBM is highly aggressive, and its cells multiply rapidly. Surgical removal is one of the main weapons doctors have to treat brain tumours. The problem is that currently, there’s no way to know if they have taken out all of the cancerous cells. And removing extra material “just in case” isn’t a good option in the brain, which controls so many critical processes.
The techniques surgeons have at their disposal today are not accurate enough to identify all the cells that need to be excised. So Kircher’s team decided to develop a new method to fill that gap.
Gliomas represent 30% of all brain tumours, and 80% of them are malignant. Brain tumours are the leading cause of death in children under the age of 20.
One of the big problems with brain tumours is that a surgeon can never really be sure that they have managed to remove all the cancerous cells, which is why brain tumours often recur, and when they come back they are normally very virulent.
While traditional imaging technology such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can identify solid tumours easily, they often cannot detect cancerous cells that have invaded healthy tissue on the periphery of the tumour.
Scientists from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill University, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), and Polytechnique Montréal have developed a new intraoperative probing technique that could increase survival odds for patients with brain cancer.
Glioblastomas are the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer and one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Most patients diagnosed with this type of brain tumour survive just 15 months, according to the American Cancer Society. Glioblastomas are generally found in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, but can be found anywhere in the brain or spinal cord.
Glioblastomas (GBM) are tumours that arise from astrocytes—the star-shaped cells that make up the “glue-like,” or supportive tissue of the brain. These tumours are usually highly malignant (cancerous) because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a large network of blood vessels.
Glioblastoma is the most common primary malignant brain tumor; however, glioblastoma in children is less common than in adults, and little is known about its clinical outcome in children. Most children diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme or anaplastic astrocytoma receive surgery and radiation, and in some cases chemotherapy.
There are many factors that affect that prognosis for a child with a glioma. The most important factor is the type of tumor. It is also very important if there were any tumor cells left after the tumor was removed. Some studies have shown that younger children have better prognosis than older children.
According to research done at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, and published in the journal Nature Communications, a “groundbreaking discovery” in the field of cancer treatment has been made; a method of transforming skin cells into stem cells that can target and destroy brain cancer.
The study reveals how the transformed skin cells were able to hunt down and kill glioblastomas, which are a type of brain tumour belonging to a class of brain tumours called gliomas.
This is the most common and lethal form of malignant primary brain tumours in adults. The current prognosis for this type of tumour is poor, only around 30% of patients surviving beyond 2 years from diagnosis.