Old anxiety drug offers hope to brain cancer patients

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Brain cancer, particularly glioblastoma, poses a formidable challenge in the realm of cancer treatment.

Glioblastoma is both the most common and deadly form of brain cancer, known for its resistance to conventional treatments that are effective against cancers in other parts of the body.

A recent study led by Associate Professor Cedric Bardy at the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Flinders University has shed light on a significant factor contributing to this resistance – cerebrospinal fluid.

The Role of Cerebrospinal Fluid in Treatment Resistance

Cerebrospinal fluid is the clear, colorless liquid that serves as a protective cushion for the brain.

Researchers in Australia conducted a study to investigate how this fluid may affect the response of brain cancers, particularly glioblastoma, to treatment.

Their findings, published in the journal Science Advances, reveal that cerebrospinal fluid can alter the behavior of tumor cells in a way that makes them more resistant to radiation and chemotherapy, including the drug temozolomide, which are commonly used in glioblastoma therapy.

Understanding Glioblastoma’s Unique Challenges

Glioblastoma presents unique challenges compared to other cancers. It has a high mortality rate and disproportionately affects individuals, including children and young adults.

Despite the aggressive nature of available treatments, they often prove ineffective, leading to a grim prognosis for patients with this devastating disease.

The study team believes that understanding the distinct characteristics of brain cancers may hold the key to addressing their resistance to treatment.

Insights from the Study

In their research, the Australian team collaborated across multiple disciplines, including neurobiology, neurosurgery, and oncology.

They conducted experiments using tumor cells collected from 25 patients with glioblastoma.

One of their key findings was that exposure to cerebrospinal fluid caused these tumor cells to undergo changes in their characteristics, leading to increased resistance to radiation and temozolomide.

Promising Repurposing of an Old Drug

Importantly, the study revealed a potential breakthrough in the form of an old anti-anxiety drug called trifluoperazine, which has been in use since the 1950s.

Trifluoperazine was found to have the remarkable ability to reverse the resistance of glioblastoma cells to both radiation and chemotherapy.

Encouragingly, this drug did not harm healthy brain cells. The researchers speculate that combining trifluoperazine with standard glioblastoma care could enhance patient survival.

The Path Forward

Associate Professor Cedric Bardy expressed the urgency of improving treatment for glioblastoma, emphasizing the devastating impact this cancer has on otherwise healthy and young individuals.

While acknowledging the limitations of current chemotherapies, he highlighted the potential of repurposing drugs like trifluoperazine to enhance the standard of care for glioblastoma patients.

The research team is now focused on transitioning their findings to clinical trials, aiming to translate these promising results into tangible benefits for patients battling this relentless form of brain cancer.

In conclusion, the study illuminates the role of cerebrospinal fluid in brain cancer treatment resistance and offers hope in the form of an old anti-anxiety drug that could potentially improve outcomes for glioblastoma patients.

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The research findings can be found in Science Advances.

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