Glioblastoma multiforme ( GBM) is an aggressive brain cancer that is responsible for the death of 13 , 000 Americans each year. Although there are several treatment options, like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, the median survival time does not exceed 15 months in most patients. Now a team of researchers at Northwestern University have succeeded in developing an effective drug in treating this incurable cancer. This new therapy is based on nanotechnology and involves the use of a drug that deactivates an important gene of this disease. Experiments so far have shown that this drug significantly increases survival in animals with this type of cancer.
One of the causes of failure of chemotherapy in treating cancers of the brain is that the drugs used cannot pass the blood-brain barrier. The new drug developed is able can cross the blood-brain barrier that can reach the tumor cells. The target of this drug is cancer-causing gene; once inactivated this gene, it is blocked the entire mechanism by which the tumor cells are immortals.
It should be noted that this drug was tested on mice and showed that the survival time increases by about 20% compared with control group. In addition, the tumor size has decreased by 3-4 times. Chad A. Mirkin , a NanoMedicine expert and a senior co-author of the study, explained that they used highly adaptable spherical nucleic acids to target one important gene involved in GBM. He said that this concept can be used to treat a wide range of diseases such as colon cancer or lung cancer, psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis.
It should be noted that this new therapy is the result of intensive research. Mirkin developed this new concept, spherical nucleic acids ( SNA ), in 1996 at Northwestern. These are globular forms of DNA and RNA , without toxic effects in humans, created to target a specific gene. Alexander H. Stegh, who is a glioblastoma expert and an investigator in the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute, discovered in 2007 that the gene Bcl2Like12 is involved in this cancer; it seems that Bcl2Like12 is overexpressed in these tumors and responsible for treatment resistance.
Stegh, who is also a senior co-author of the study, said that glioblastoma is a very challenging cancer and that most drugs used in chemotherapy fail in the clinic. He added that this gene that was inactivated plays many different roles in resistance to therapy. According to Stegh, blocking this gene will enable the treatment to take effect.