In a joint interdisciplinary project led by the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), researchers now show that cancer cells of glioblastomas -- conspicuously aggressive solid brain tumors -- manifest developmental plasticity and their phenotypic characteristics are less constrained than believed. Cancer stem cells, including their progeny, are able to adapt to environmental conditions and undergo reversible transformations into various cell types, thereby altering their surface structures. The results imply that novel therapeutic approaches, which target specific surface structures of cancer stem cells, will be of limited utility. The research team has published its findings in Nature Communications in April 2019.
Glioblastomas are the most common malignant brain tumors. Because of their rapid growth, the prognosis for those affected is usually dismal. Many patients hold out hopes for novel therapeutic approaches, which utilize drug-bound antibodies directed against specific markers present on the surface of a subpopulation of immature glioblastoma cells. These antibody-drug conjugates bind to the surface, are then internalized and kill the cancer stem cells.
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However, results now published in the journal Nature Communications suggest that this approach may be misdirected: 'We exposed cancer cells in the laboratory to certain stressors, such as drug treatment or oxygen deficiency', explains Dr. Anna Golebiewska, Junior Principal Investigator at the NORLUX Neuro-Oncology Laboratory in LIH's Department of Oncology and co-first author of the study. 'We were able to show that glioblastoma cells react flexibly to such stress factors and simply transform themselves at any time into cell types with a different set of surface markers.' This plasticity allows the cells to adapt to their microenvironment and reach a favorable environment-specific heterogeneity that enables them to sustain and grow, and mostly likely to escape also therapeutic attacks.
The team of scientists from Luxembourg, Norway and Germany, led by Prof. Simone P. Niclou at LIH, proposes that neoplastic...
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