Why some brain tumors are difficult to treat

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When it comes to treating cancer, immunotherapy has played a crucial role. It has helped slow down or even eradicate some types of cancer, such as skin cancer, which often spreads to the brain.

However, it was not effective in treating glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. A study conducted by UCLA researchers is getting closer to understanding why this is so.

Differential responses to immunotherapy in brain tumors

The treatment used in this study is a type of immunotherapy called “immune checkpoint blockade.”

For some tumors that have originated elsewhere but have spread to the brain, this treatment primes the immune system’s T cells to attack the cancer cells.

However, the same is not true for glioblastoma, a cancer that originates in the brain itself.

Why? It turns out that the immune system’s T cells are given their “marching orders” to attack cancer cells from places outside the brain called lymph nodes.

And for reasons that aren’t fully understood, this process doesn’t work well in glioblastoma.

A closer look at immune cells

The research team compared immune cells from people with different types of brain tumors. Nine people had tumors that had spread to the brain and were treated with immune checkpoint blockade.

The immune cells from these patients were then compared to those from 19 people with similar tumors who had not received the treatment.

To get a closer look, the researchers used a technique called single-cell RNA sequencing to examine the genetic material in these cells.

They also compared these results to previous studies on glioblastoma. This helped them understand how the treatment affected the T cells.

What they found was quite revealing: the T cells in the tumors that had spread to the brain were better primed to fight the cancer compared to those in glioblastoma cases.

A potential new treatment avenue

Not only did the study find differences in how T cells responded to the tumors, but it also showed that a specific group of depleted T cells was associated with longer survival in people whose cancer had spread to the brain.

According to Robert Prins, the study’s senior author, this could mean that “improving T-cell activation and function could be a potential new treatment strategy.”

What’s next?

The research team’s goal is to study a larger, more specific group of people whose skin cancer has spread to the brain.

The aim is to better understand how immunotherapy can be made more effective in different types of brain tumors.

This research is important because it could help doctors and researchers develop better treatments for brain tumors, including the difficult-to-treat glioblastoma.

By understanding why some tumors respond to current treatments and others don’t, we’re one step closer to helping people affected by these difficult conditions.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: LauraCoffey@worldtimetodays.com.

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