New pathway found which could change brain tumour treatment

11 October 2011

Healthcare research has found a new method of cancer treatment could be the best way to treat brain tumours.

Researchers at Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Cancer Research Center and the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig have discovered a metabolic pathway which weakens patients' immune systems and makes malignant brain tumours more aggressive.

The study shows that if drugs are targeted at this pathway, the results could be more effective.

Published in the journal Nature, the study found the kynurenin molecule in their studies of human cancer cells and in the mouse model.

Kynurenin is formed when the amino acid tryptophan is broken down in the body and the presence of it can ultimately stimulate the hormones that aid tumour growth and weaken the immune system.

Professor Dr Michael Platten from the Department of Neurooncology at Heidelberg University Hospital and the National Center for Tumor Diseases said: "We have been able to detect increased levels of kynurenin in cancer cells of glioma patients with particularly aggressive tumours.

"Kynurenin seems to have very similar effects as dioxin, but it is formed by the body itself."

Current methods of treatment for brain tumours include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery and steroids.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Platten, Michael, et al., "An endogenous ligand of the human aryl hydrocarbon receptor promotes tumor formation", Nature, October 6th 2011.

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