Brain Tumor Cells Will Shrink, Die Without Cholesterol, Study Finds

First Posted: Oct 18, 2016 05:30 AM EDT

Cancer is one of the diseases experts continue to find a cure for. Now, researchers have found a light at the end of a dark tunnel with their latest discovery that depriving deadly tumor cells of cholesterol, which they normal get from healthy cells around them, can cause the tumor cells' demise and causes regression.

"Disrupting cholesterol import by GBM (glioblastoma) cells caused dramatic cancer cell death and shrank tumors significantly, prolonging the survival of the mice," said senior author Paul Mischel, Professor at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in the US, according to Times of India.

Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer, which is also extremely difficult to treat. The average survival rate is just over 14 months, with only a few treated patients living five years or more past diagnosis. "The strategy worked with every single GBM tumor we looked at and even on other types of tumors that had metastasized to the brain," Mischel noted.

Zee News reported that brain cancers in adults are generally life-threatening, partly because of the biochemical composition of the central nervous system (CNS) and the blood-brain barrier, which limits the molecules coming out of the body and into the brain. It also blocks most existing chemotherapies, which is also considered a contributing factor to why treatment has not been successful. "Researchers have been thinking about ways to deal with this problem," Mischel said.

In past studies, Mischel and the others noticed that GBM cells cannot break down cholesterol, which is important to cell structure and function, especially in the brain. Experts found that GBM cells get what they need from brain cells known as astrocytes, which in large number can produce cholesterol. Researchers were able to find that the experimental drug named LXR-623 for metabolic diseases can block cholesterol import by GBM cells in mice, reported Business Standard.

In the study, published in the journal Cancer Cells, researchers found that the drug doesn't affect healthy neurons and other brain cells. However, GBM cells were not getting their normal dose of cholesterol which resulted in cell death and tumor regression. Mischel suggested the said strategy used with GBM could be applied in clinical trials using drug candidates under development or in early trials.

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