Joe Ramos UHCancerCenter

Joe Ramos / UHCancerCenter

Scientists have identified a critical driver of tumour cell invasion in glioblastoma, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer that can strike patients of any age. After initial diagnosis patients with this type of cancer have an average survival rate of 14 months. Identifying this new target could pave the way for much-needed treatment options. 

“New treatment options for brain cancer patients are desperately needed,” said Joe W. Ramos, deputy director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and lead researcher on the study. “Treatment options include chemotherapy in combination with radiation, but they only prolong a patient’s life by a few months.”

The study, published in Oncotarget, identified that a protein called RSK2 is increased in many patients with glioblastoma. RSK2 pushes the glioblastoma cells into surrounding health brain tissue, embedding the tumour in the brain and reducing the effectiveness of surgical interventions. As a result, glioblastoma has high recurrence and poor survival rates in patients. The study found that, in tumour cell samples obtained from patients, inhibiting RSK2 stopped this tumour cell invasion and enhanced the effectiveness of standard chemotherapy.

“This study paves the way for development of new brain cancer therapies focused on RSK2 inhibitors for brain invasion,” said co-author Santosh Kesari, chair of Department of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics of the John Wayne Cancer Institute and Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

“The next steps include identifying better compounds to target the RSK2 protein. We are hoping to discover a powerful new drug to treat this aggressive brain cancer,” added Ramos.

“The new discovery can potentially lead to a new class of drugs to treat not only brain cancers, but other invasive cancers as well. With about 60 new cases of brain cancer diagnosed every year in Hawai’i, and about 40 deaths, an effective treatment can help many patients in our state,” said Randall Holcombe, UH Cancer Center director.

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