The growth of brain tumor is halted with abemaciclib: a novel new drug

Meningioma is a brain tumor that is not metastatic and occurs even after a patient undergoes surgery and radiation. In such a situation, the patient with brain tumor is left with no treatment option.

Such aggressive tumors cannot be treated with drugs. These tumors occur in about 20% of the cases, making patients disabled or even prone to death.

Currently, researchers at the Northwestern University of Medicine have collaborated with the University of California and the University of Hong Kong.

They are on a mission to develop a novel drug that can inhibits the development of meningiomas. They are the most aggressive form of brain tumors. They are also working on identifying how accurately the drug are effective in destroying meningiomas.

These scientists have developed a new drug named abemaciclib, which is an anti-cancer agent. The drug was tested successful in a human clinical trial of selected patients. It was also tested on animal model of mouse.

Moreover, a three-dimensional brain tumor was extracted from living tissues. Such a tumor was known as organoids, and the drug was tested on this organoid and other cell cultures.

Investigators created two subgroups of meningiomas as their clinical outcome and recurrence rates were different. This new method of classifying tumors was more effective in predicting the recurrence rate as compared to the existing method.

Currently, patients with brain tumor have to undergo surgery. After undergoing surgery, a specimen of the tumor is examined by the doctor under a microscope and graded according to its aggression: one, two, or three.

But gradation of tumors has only 70% accuracy level. This implies that some tumors would behave in a way that does not resemble the specimen observed under the microscope.

In this study, we identified the patient who were suitable for being treated with abemaciclib, the novel anti-cancer drug. It is highly likely that the brain tumor of these patients would respond to this drug.

According to the lead investigator of this study, the drug has the potential to give such patients a longer life that is devoid of any symptoms. Dr. Stephen Magill is the corresponding author of this study and practices neurological surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. This study was published in the esteemed journal Nature Genetics.





Cancer stem cells can now be destroyed by targeting metabolism

Cancer is a fatal illness with poor prognosis and survival rate, especially when it has progressed to a metastatic state. Scientists have not yet been able to decipher why patients become resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs and therapies. To address this objective, researchers worked diligently at  the Rogel Cancer Center—it is affiliated to the University of Michigan.

They made an important breakthrough in the year 2003. The lead supervisor was Dr S. Wicha, MD for the team of researchers. They found that there are cancer stem cells that act like a fuel within a tumor. Although this group of cells is immensely small, they are the ones that trigger the growth and metastasis of cancer.

The simple strategy was then to simply kill the group of cancer stem cells, and the long lost battle against cancer could be defeated easily. But, is this so easy to sound hopeful for cancer patients? Not really, cancer is such a condition that can relapse and attack patients even after they have been cured temporarily.

Currently, there has been an important discovery: cancer stem cells do not really exist in ONLY a single state but they are exhibited in different states; they are immensely plastic in nature. This implies that different forms can be easily adopted by cancer stem cells.

They could be in a dormant state for some point of time and then easily bounce back into uncontrolled growth, leading to formation of tumor. Multiplication and spreading, the two characteristic features of cancer stem cells, have been attributed to its most important property: plasticity.

Presently, patients are treated with targeted therapies for combating cancer. Although these therapies are effective, they have been successful in destroying tumor cells only for a certain period of time. There are many cases in which patients develop resistance to these targeted therapies.

What is the cause of drug resistance in cancer patients? Most scientists believe that drug resistance is triggered once again by cancer stem cells. Because cancer stem cells have high plasticity, they change their form completed when subjected to targeted therapies.

The resultant effect is that cancer stem cells are completely unrecognizable to these therapies following change of form. The patient thus develops resistance to therapies and the patients’ condition deteriorates consistently.

The conclusion: multiple stem cell therapies must be developed to effectively combat every form of cancer stem cell. This is a humungous task to achieve according to scientists at the Rogel Cancer Center. Cell metabolism is the key feature that controls the plasticity of cancer stem cells.

How do we eliminate the plasticity of cancer stem cells? Well, all we need to do is to target the metabolism of cancer stem cells. In other words, cancer stem cells can be effectively attacked by destroying cell metabolism.Mitochondria are cell organelles that supply energy to cells, irrespective of its kind. This includes cancer stem cells.

Mitochondria are organelles that perform cellular respiration, depending completely on the supply of oxygen. Cells derive energy from mitochondria, which converts sugar or glucose molecules into energy with the help of cellular oxygen.

Cancer stem cells are very unique due to its plasticity. When they are in the dormant state, they derive energy from glucose molecule. When they grow in a proliferative state, cancer stem cells depend completely on oxygen. Given the mechanism of deriving energy for sustenance and proliferation, researchers attacked both forms of cell metabolism observed in cancer stem cells.

They used a drug that is conventionally used for treating arthritis. This drug can effectively block the functioning of mitochondria in cancer stem cells. The levels of cellular glucose were further manipulated to obstruct the pathway of energy. They performed this experiment on cancer-stricken mice.

To their surprise, they had effectively knocked off all the cancer stem cells from the mice. This is an important breakthrough in cancer research, and the findings of this study have attracted a lot of attention. The complete experiment has been published in Cell Metabolism, a peer-reviewed SCI journal.

The general public may wonder why this study is so path-breaking and innovative in nature. Well, the conventional cancer therapy makes use of highly toxic chemicals to destroy cells in a tumor. Here, researchers adopted a completely different pathway to control the explosion of cancer stem cells: they destroyed the cell metabolism associated with the proliferation of tumor cells.

According to the lead researcher Dr. Wicha, further studies must be conducted to understand how metabolism controls the efficacy of human immune system. This could open a new chapter in cancer research: scientists could then focus their efforts on developing novel combinatorial techniques for cancer treatment.

These techniques must aim at effectively combining existing immunotherapies with anti-stem cell therapies. The concept is refreshing and offering new hope; however, extensive clinical trials must be conducted to validate results.