Glioblastomas are malignant brain tumours that very often recur after radiation therapy. Researchers now think they know why. In a paper published online by Nature, Jeremy N. Rich and colleagues show that a small population of tumour cells, including cancer and neural stem cells, help make these glioma tumours more resistant to treatment.
Although the stem cells make up just a tiny fraction of the entire tumour mass, they can divide to form more copies of themselves and drive tumour formation. Glioblastoma stem cells, which express a characteristic marker protein called CD133, activate a DNA repair pathway more potently than CD133-negative cancer cells. This makes them better able to survive DNA damage, and more resistant to ionizing radiation in vivo and in vitro.
It is hoped the discovery will boost the development of treatments that block the radioresistance of cancer stem cells and so improve the efficacy of brain cancer treatments.
Jeremy N. Rich (Duke University, Durham, NC, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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