PhotoA new breakthrough in brain cancer research has shed light on how fatal brain tumors grow and has introduced a new drug target for treatment of the disease. Findings suggest that instead of growing through sugar consumption, glioma – a type of malignant brain tumor – are fueled by fats.

Researchers hope that the discovery will enhance the scientific community’s understanding of tumor behavior and allow for more precise treatments to emerge.

“Our results provide new insight into the fundamental biochemistry of cancer cells, with exciting implications for patients in the future,” said Dr. Elizabeth Stoll, lead author of the study.

Gaining new insights

The study, which was conducted at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, utilized tumor tissue from both patients undergoing surgery and mouse models. The tissues were treated with a drug called etomoxir, which inhibits cells' ability to make energy by using fatty acids.

The researchers found that the tumors grew much more slowly after being treated with etomoxir. This suggests that targeting fatty-acid metabolism may provide an additional therapeutic avenue that doctors can take advantage of in the future.

“Most cells within the adult brain require sugars to produce energy and sustain function. Interestingly, we have discovered that malignant glioma cells have a completely different metabolic strategy as they actually prefer to break down fats to make energy,” said Stoll. “Our finding provides a new understanding of brain tumour biology, and a new potential drug target for fighting this type of cancer.”

The researchers hope that they will be able to conduct studies with clinical partners so that a new drug can be developed in the future. The full study has been published in journal Neuro-Oncology.

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