Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) or simply glioblastoma, is a type of cancer characterized by the growth of an aggressive neoplasm (tumor) in the brain or spinal cord. This type of cancer often occurs in older adults, although the younger population may also be affected.
This cancer type is known to be difficult to treat because of its high tendency to reoccur in patients, even after the combination of the three known procedures to treat cancers: surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Glioblastoma has been a thorn in the flesh in the world of medicine amongst all cancer types due to the low survival rate of patients affected by it (average survival of 18 months, with only 5% of patients living up to five years). The following factors make this possible: no specific signs or symptoms are noticed leading to late diagnosis and the ability of the cancer cells to resist treatment procedures (the major factor).
Studies have been ongoing to uncover the mechanism behind this major factor, and it has been revealed that Glioblastoma multiforme contains a functional subset of cells known as glioblastoma stem-like cells (GSCs) which are the brain behind its reoccurrence capacity. The identity of these cells remained hidden until a recent study done by a group of scientists finally uncovered it.
The discovery process
The team found out that these functional subsets of cells can be identified through “singular mitochondrial alternative metabolisms”. After intensively studying the metabolic reactions of these cells, they developed a tumor model that possessed the features of the GBM cultured in the lab. This way, they discovered that GSCs use these two metabolic reactions – alpha-ketoglutarate reductive carboxylation and pyruvate carboxylation – within their cells. They also discovered that these reactions are catalyzed by the enzymes isocitrate dehydrogenase and pyruvate carboxylase respectively.
They were able to uncover that their high rate of survival which facilitated the recurrence of the tumor is linked to the pyruvate carboxylation reaction. This discovery is important as it means that doctors may now be able to tackle the reoccurring ability of the tumor effectively.
It has always been known that treating glioblastoma is difficult due to its high recurring ability. However, with the revelation from this study, it is now possible for physicians to come up with more effective treatment procedures that would result in a reduced recurrence of the tumors, and an increased survival rate of patients.
This study raises the hopes of both physicians and patients as it reveals a way to hinder the recurrence of glioblastoma tumors. More research is still ongoing to hasten the innovation of a more effective treatment technique.