Depriving deadly brain tumors of cholesterol may be their Achilles’s heel

Depriving deadly brain tumors of cholesterol may be their Achilles’s heel
Image: YouTube screen grab (via University of Utah Neuroscience Initiative)

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and The Scripps Research Institute, with colleagues in Los Angeles and Japan, report that depriving deadly brain cancer cells of cholesterol, which they import from neighboring healthy cells, specifically kills tumor cells and caused tumor regression and prolonged survival in mouse models.

The findings, published in the online October 13 issue of Cancer Cell, also present a potential alternative method for treating glioblastomas (GBM), the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer. GBMs are extremely difficult to treat. The median survival rate is just over 14 months, with few treated patients living five years or more past diagnosis.

Adult brain cancers are almost universally fatal, in part because of the biochemical composition of the central nervous system (CNS) and the blood-brain barrier, which selectively and protectively limits the passage of molecules from the body into the brain, but which also blocks most existing chemotherapies, contributing to treatment failure.

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