Could antiepileptic drugs prolong the lives of patients suffering from rare brain tumors?


Scientists at the University of California have discovered that anticonvulsants may help prevent the growth of a difficult-to-treat brain tumor called glioblastoma. Further research by the team could not only add the drug to brain tumor treatment regimens, but also open new avenues for others seeking to develop treatments for glioblastoma.

Through previous studies on mice and brain cells, scientists have found that cancer cells can integrate very well with the surrounding brain tissue by producing neurotransmitter-like substances. Too much of these neurotransmitter-like substances excites neurons into an overactive state, which stimulates cancer growth.

To understand how this positive feedback loop between cancer cells and neurons affects behavior and cognition, researchers recruited patients awaiting surgery to remove their tumors. They then placed the electrodes in their speaking area and asked them to name the objects in the pictures they were shown. They found that patients used a wider than normal neural network to identify items.

What this essentially means is that the areas of the brain that interact with tumor cells actually lose their ability to process information, and the rest of the brain compensates. This indicates that a feedback loop between glioblastoma cells and neurons is responsible for cognitive decline in brain tumor patients, not pressure from a growing tumor, the researchers said.

“Brain tumors are regulated by the nervous system, which talks to surrounding cells, actively integrates into brain circuits, and reconfigures cell behavior,” said Shaun, a neurosurgeon and one of the study’s authors. Harvey Jumper said in a release.

Once the research team understood this mechanism in glioblastoma tumors, they realized that gabapentin, an anti-seizure drug, could suppress brain excitability caused by excess neurotransmitter-like substances. This drug prevents seizures by reducing electrical activity in the brain.

“Gabapentin actually prevented the tumor from spreading. This suggests that combining gabapentin with other glioblastoma treatments could reverse some of the cognitive decline seen in patients and possibly extend life. It raises hopes that it can be done,” said lead author Sarisa Krishna, a postdoctoral fellow at the university from India.

Professor Harvey Jumper said this will facilitate research into communication networks between cells that are potential therapeutic targets. “We’ve never thought about cancer this way before. The idea that there’s a conversation between cancer cells and healthy brain cells is like a paradigm shift,” he said. mentioned in the release.

Dr. Deepak Gupta, a neurosurgeon at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, said the hypothesis was a good one and that research was moving in the right direction. But he issued a warning. “It’s great that scientists are exploring new pathways to tackle glioblastoma, but the research is in the very early stages. It’s not yet the time to get people excited.”

Over the past 70 to 80 years, researchers have explored different treatments for this difficult-to-treat cancer, “but survival rates have not improved beyond months,” he added. Nearly 90 percent of people diagnosed with this condition don’t last more than a year. Family members should be informed of this when making the diagnosis and should avoid repeated surgeries, immunotherapy, or other treatments. “

Gupta said there was nothing inherently wrong with trying new treatments. He himself has undergone immunotherapy for glioblastoma, but is concerned about the burden on patients.

‚ÄúThere are gene therapy, intratumoral immunotherapy, and intratumoral radioimmunotherapy available today. Dendritic cell vaccines, a type of immunotherapy that stimulates immune cells to target and attack cancer cells, have been developed. We have performed several immunotherapies (such as those administered intratumorally), but survival rates have not increased beyond a few months. The best result was a large resection during surgery, giving the patient another few months,” Dr. Gupta added.



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