Brain Cancer Research

Jun 3, 2013

Credit National Cancer Institute

Researchers at the University of Virginia say they’ve found a possible target for treating the most common and deadly form of brain cancer, and this discovery could lead to treatments that will attack other forms of cancer. 

Glioblastomas are an aggressive form of brain cancer which spreads like ivy and cannot be completely removed with surgery. 

There is no cure, and patients, on average, live less than two years, but scientists at the University of Virginia have identified an enzyme – DGK Alpha -- that could be essential to the formation of malignant brain tumors.

“It seems to be something that cancer cells are addicted to.”

Dr. Benjamin Purow
Credit UVA Health System

Dr. Benjamin Purow and his team found  they could inhibit the enzyme and slow cancer growth in laboratory mice.  Already, Purow says, there is a drug known to suppress DGK-Alpha – a medication shown to be safe and effective in treating other conditions.

“We’re very excited that using this compound – that repurposing this old drug – might be a much faster way into the clinic and could help us get into the clinic within a couple of years.”

Purow says combining that drug with other cancer treatments might be especially helpful, and suppressing DGK-Alpha could make immunotherapy more effective.  

“Others have shown that DGK-Alpha seems to be something that holds back the immune system, and one of the things we want to do is boost the immune response.  It’s the foundation of immunotherapy, which is looking more and more promising against cancer.”

Finally, he says, this enzyme is found in melanoma and other cancers, raising the possibility that a single treatment could be used on many diseases. 

Purow’s findings have been published in the journal Cancer.