PhotoRecent research has already shown how useful proteins can be when it comes to detecting diseases at the molecular level. Now, scientists from the University of Toledo Health Science Campus (UT) and Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) have found a new way that they can be used to stop the spread of a deadly form of brain cancer. When these proteins are activated in the brain, the cancer cells are no longer able to spread to new tissue.

Scientists were able to test these proteins on glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer. There were 22,000 cases of GBM in the U.S. in 2010, with fatalities occurring 15 months after a diagnosis was given, on average.  It has been shown to be resistant to many treatments, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Slowing the spread of cancer cells

Working on prior research done by Dr. Arthur Alberts, Dr. Kathryn Eisenmann and her colleagues were able to activate a class of proteins called DIAPHs, which were able to stop the spread of cancerous GBM cells in the brain. This was a huge feat, since GBM has been so hard to cure due to its virulent, fast-spreading nature.

“Metastatic tumor cells are like any moving vehicle -- all of the wheels need to be pointed in the right direction when power is applied," said Alberts. "DIAPHs build the structures that hold and point all the wheels moving cells in the right direction. Dr. Eisenmann's data suggests that DIAPH activation or 'agonism' locks all wheels into arbitrary directions, so no matter how hard you push the pedal down, the tumor cells won't move."

This research has the potential to help slow the spread of other types of cancer as well. Researchers have already found that they could take similar steps to slow the growth of tumors in colon cancer, which has claimed the lives of millions worldwide.

“Our hope is this discovery will prove to be an anti-tumor strategy and one that will be safe and effective for patients,” said Eisenmann. The full study has been published in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell

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