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Breakthrough could lead to treatments for incurable brain cancer

Breakthrough could lead to treatments for incurable brain cancer

Scientists have made a discovery that could lead to new treatments for a deadly and incurable brain cancer.

Glioblastoma brain tumours are resistant to radiation, chemotherapy and difficult to remove with surgery, and patients survive for an average of 16 months after being diagnosed.

But now researchers have found a "key player" protein in the brain tumour formation which means scientists can examine it as a possible target for future treatments.

The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, found that a protein called OSMR is required for glioblastoma tumours to form.

"The fact that most patients with these brain tumours live only 16 months is just heartbreaking," said lead author Dr Arezu Jahani-Asl.

"Right now there is no effective treatment, and that's what drives me to study this disease."

The researchers studied human brain tumour stem cells from glioblastoma patients.

If a single one of these brain tumour stem cells is left behind after surgery, it can create a whole new tumour. In the current study, researchers found that blocking OSMR activity can prevent cells from reforming tumours in mouse brains.

"Being able to stop tumour formation entirely was a dramatic and stunning result," said Dr Rudnicki, senior co-corresponding author of the study.

"It means that this protein is a key piece of the puzzle, and could be a possible target for future treatments."

They looked at 339 tumour samples from human glioblastoma patients and found that the higher the OSMR "expression", the faster the patient died.

This was confirmed in mouse studies, where animals injected with human brain tumour stem cells with low OSMR expression lived 30% longer than those infected with tumour stem cells with normal OSMR expression.