AURORA, Colo. (May 13, 2010) – There may be a way to slow the progression of an aggressive, chemotherapy resistant type of pediatric brain cancer. According to research at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, blocking two proteins in astrocytoma may make the tumors more susceptible to chemotherapy.
Astrocytoma is a brain tumor that has no effective chemotherapies and the cells grow very quickly. The survival rates for high-grade astrocytoma remain well below 10 percent. Brain tumors are the most common solid tumor of pediatrics and are a leading cause of cancer related deaths in children.
Mer and Axl receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) are concentrated on the surface of astrocytoma cells in both patient tumor samples and in research cell lines. Previous research has shown Mer and Axl RTK are not found in a normal brain.
Lead researcher, Amy Keating, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, says inhibiting these two proteins resulted in a large decrease in the survival of astrocytoma cells.
“After we realized we could inhibit Mer and Axl RTK proteins, we combined the inhibitors with standard brain tumor treatment therapies,” said Keating. “We found we could then kill the astrocytoma cells with much lower doses of chemotherapy.”
The cells die because inhibiting the protein programs the cancer to self-destruct.
“Mer and Axl RTK inhibition is a potential novel and effective approach to treating this devastating brain cancer. This research will help us develop more effective and less toxic treatments for children with cancer,” said Keating.
The research was partially funded by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research. St. Baldrick’s coordinates worldwide head-shaving events, with volunteer “shavees” raising money to support childhood cancer research. Since 2000, head-shavings have taken place in 25 countries and all 50 U.S. states, raising more than $87 million.
Dr. Keating’s research project is entitled, “The Role of Mer and Axl Tyrosine Kinases in Pediatric Astrocytoma.” It is published in the May issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.
Contact: Erika Matich, 303.524.2780, Erika.Matich@ucdenver.edu