New Research Developments from Northwestern University, University of Toronto, South Korea, and more

New Research Developments from Northwestern University, University of Toronto, South Korea, and more

March 23, 2021

New Drug Crosses Blood-brain Barrier and kills glioblastoma cells

A team led by Dr. Priya Kumthekar of Northwestern University, a long-time Head for the Cure and Brains for the Cure partner, has published a study from an early-stage clinical trial that shows promising results for a new drug. Small doses of the new drug were given to eight patients, and was found to cross the blood-brain barrier and trigger tumor cell death.

Dr. Priya Kumthekar of Northwestern University.

Dr. Kumthekar and her team’s glioblastoma treatment is not only a new drug, but part of a new class of nanotechnology drugs called a spherical nucleic acids. (SNAs).

The standard chemotherapy approach for brain tumors hasn’t changed in over a decade, which makes this research a promising space to watch.

Dr. Kumthekar told the Northwestern Medicine News Center, “We want to move the technology forward as quickly as possible because there are patients with a disease with no current cure.”

Read the summary article in Northwestern Medicine News Center

Listen to Dr. Priya Kumthekar explain the findings on Northwestern Medicine’s Podcast

Read the original study in the journal Science Translational Medicine

South Korean Research Team Identifies Potential Strategy To Block Glioblastoma’s Invasive Spread

Part of what makes glioblastoma so dangerous and difficult to treat is it’s invasiveness. GBMs use multiple strategies to spread microscopically around the brain. Tiny traces of tumor cells typically continue to invade even following surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

A team in South Korea have discovered a new layer in how GBM invades and spreads. The team, led by Dr. Hong Jun-Hee, identified a common feature of more invasive GBMs and have proposed some strategies for deactivating it.

More invasive tumors like to spread via long tendrils down myelin sheaths – a kind of protective tissue that acts as a sort of insulation around axons – the neuronal wires that make up the brain’s network. Dr. Hong and his team found that these more invasive tumors show very little activity from a receptor they discovered called NgR1. This means invasive GBMs easily overcome the efforts by myelin to block their spread.

In lab tests, the scientists were able to flip a gene that reversed this trait. And while this didn’t stop tumor cells from growing, it did keep them more massed in one place. This could be harnessed in the future to keep tumors in one spot and prevent their invasive spread to other parts of the brain.

Read the summary findings from BRAIN: A Journal of Neurology

Read the complete original study in BRAIN: A Journal of Neurology

Fujitsu and University of Toronto develop technology to optimize radiation treatment plans

Researchers at the University of Toronto, alongside engineers at Fujitsu Laboratories of Japan, announced the technology that eases the creation of radiation treatment plans for Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

Gamma Knife is a widely-used and quite effective radiation technique for brain tumors, but the process of creating treatment plans can be slow and difficult work for both patient and doctor. Doctors have to make painstaking adjustments to radiation dose in different parts of the brain to ensure maximum effect and minimum side effects.

The new approach is able to model where to concentrate the radiation using computational techniques in minutes rather than hours. This could free medical teams to give more attention to patients, and may lead to more effective treatment plans.

Read the full news release here.