A new study found that a protein called OSMR is required for glioblastoma tumors to form.
Glioblastoma is one of the most deadly cancers, resistant to radiation, chemotherapy and difficult to remove with surgery.
At the moment there is no effective treatment for glioblastoma. Most patients diagnosed with glioblastoma live only 16 months after diagnosis.
Researchers studied human brain tumor stem cells taken from glioblastoma patients. It was previously believed that any cancer cell could reproduce to form a whole tumor. Researchers have since learned that in brain cancer only a few kinds of cells have this ability. If a single one of these brain tumor stem cells is left behind after surgery, it can create a whole new tumor. This study found that by blocking OSMR activity, in these cells prevented them from forming tumors in mouse brains.
Researchers found that blocking OSMR activity in these cells prevented them from forming tumors in mouse brains.
The ability to stop tumor formation entirely meant that OSMR is a key piece of the puzzle and could be a possible target for future treatments.
Researchers also found that the higher the OSMR expression in a glioblastoma tumor, the faster the patient died. This was also confirmed in mouse studies. Mice that were injected with human brain tumor stem cells with low OSMR expression lived 30% longer than those with tumor stem cells with normal OSMR expression
The study raises exciting prospect of potential new targets for a lethal disease.
The next step is to find small molecules or antibodies that can shut down the protein OSMR or stop it from interacting with EGFR. However, any human treatment targeting this protein is still years away.