New study points to a potential 'Achilles heel' in brain cancer
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IMAGE: This is Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., F.N.A.I., Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and member of the Cancer Molecular Genetics research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center,… view more 

Credit: VCU Massey Cancer Center

Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University believe they have uncovered an “Achilles heel” of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and deadly form of brain cancer. Their study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details how a mechanism that protects glioma stem cells can potentially be exploited to develop new and more effective treatments for GBM.

Autophagy is a process in which cells get rid of unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It can be toxic to the cells, or it can serve a protective role. The researchers demonstrated that protective autophagy allows glioma stem cells to resist anoikis, which is a form of programmed cell death (apoptosis) that occurs when cells detach from the extracellular matrix, or the collection of molecules that helps support and protect cells within the body. The study found that this protective mechanism is regulated by the gene MDA-9/Syntenin.

“We discovered that when we blocked the expression of MDA-9/Syntenin, glioma stem cells lose

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