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Study Suggests New Way to Fight Deadly Brain Tumor (Reuters) New York researchers may have discovered how a type of deadly brain cancer spreads quickly through the brain. They say the findings could lead to improved treatment, since existing drugs may be able to block this process. - Aug 30 6:28 PM ET


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Website: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010830/hl/tumor_1.html

Posted on: 08/30/2001

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Thursday August 30 6:27 PM ET "Study Suggests New Way to Fight Deadly Brain Tumor"

Study Suggests New Way to Fight Deadly Brain Tumor

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New York researchers may have discovered how a type of deadly brain cancer spreads quickly through the brain. They say the findings could lead to improved treatment, since existing drugs may be able to block this process.

Malignant glioma is an aggressive type of brain cancer that does not respond well to treatment. Most people with the disease die within a year of being diagnosed. Exactly how the deadly disease spreads through the brain has been a mystery.

Laboratory tests have shown that glioma tumors can release a substance called glutamate, and high levels of glutamate have been detected around gliomas in the brain. This brain chemical, known as a neurotransmitter, helps different parts of the brain communicate with each other. The release of too much glutamate, however, can destroy brain cells.

A team led by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard at the New York Medical College in Valhalla suspected that gliomas might spread by releasing glutamate to destroy surrounding brain cells.

In samples of brain tissue, the researchers detected signs of glutamate release in areas surrounding gliomas. They also detected high levels of neuron destruction around gliomas, suggesting that the release of glutamate paves the way for the spread of a brain tumor.

In fact, the investigators found that the more glutamate released by glioma cells, the faster the tumor cells grew.

Moreover, when the scientists treated the cells with compounds that act against glutamate--including memantine, an experimental drug that has been tested in patients with Alzheimer's disease (news - web sites) and other neurological disorders--they were able to slow down the growth of gliomas.

"Our study indicates that inhibition of glioma glutamate release or blockade of glutamate receptors may serve as an alternative strategy in the management of patients with malignant gliomas," the authors write in the September issue of Nature Medicine.

But further research is needed, since it is uncertain whether the findings apply to different types of glioma cells, according to Drs. Jeffrey D. Rothstein and Henry Brem at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Still, the findings do "open up an entirely new treatment approach to fatal central nervous system tumors--glutamate therapy," they write in an accompanying editorial.

The editorialists point out that one glutamate blocker, riluzole, is already approved for treating the fatal neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. And, they add, it is also worth testing the anti-glioma effects of several experimental glutamate-blocking drugs that have not proven effective in clinical trials of stroke patients.

SOURCE: Nature Medicine 2001;7:994-995, 1010-1015.

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