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Glioblastomas describe fast-growing and aggressive brain tumours that are often incurable.
The notoriously lethal brain tumours claim around 2,500 new victims each year in the UK alone, with only seven percent of patients surviving the diagnosis.
Glioblastomas have claimed the lives of The Wanted singer Tom Parker and the US president’s eldest son Beau Biden.
Sadly, most patients succumb to the condition within two years and few make it past five – a statistic that hasn’t improved in decades.
However, a new study, published in the journal iScience, offers a glimmer of hope.
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A team of scientists has developed a drug that could destroy these deadly culprits.
The new advancement passes through the blood-brain barrier that protects neurons from foreign invaders, wiping out cancerous cells.
Experiments found the drug was able to kill them all, while leaving healthy tissue alone.
The results described as “very promising” saw the mice models used in the study cured with no relapse after more than six months.
The new drug, which works in combination with chemotherapy, could be introduced in clinical practice within five years.
What’s more, the breakthrough has potential implications for other aggressive cancers.
Lead author Professor Leif Eriksson, of Gothenburg University, said: “These are the first clear results with brain tumours that can lead to a treatment which completely avoids surgery and radiation.
“We have also begun studying the use of our substance on other aggressive tumour forms like pancreatic cancer, triple-negative breast cancer and certain liver cancers.”
The drug, named Z4P, works by blocking a mechanism that drives the tumour’s protein production, causing cells to die of stress.
Cancer cells, especially those that form aggressive tumours, are out of control, eventually hijacking healthy cells.
Prof Eriksson said: “We have now succeeded in stopping this by inserting a specially developed molecule in the cells that inhibits one of these hijacked adaptive mechanisms in the cancer cells. This causes the cancer to self-destruct.”
What’s more, the new treatment doesn’t seem to have severe side effects.
The mice models in the study maintained weight, had no apparent changes in behaviour and there was no sign of impact on the liver.
Furthermore, extensive lab tests on cells have shown the substance is non-toxic even at very high doses.
The research team is now optimising the treatment procedure and planning additional animal studies.
However, this new technique sadly doesn’t apply to other forms of brain cancer because they develop differently from glioblastomas.