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Inhibiting Specific Protein Stops Repair of Aggressive Tumour Cells

INHIBITING the RAD51 protein found in the brain could improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy treatment for an aggressive type of brain tumour, researchers at the University of Leeds, Leeds, UK, have discovered.

Prof Susan Short, Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, University of Leeds, and her colleagues showed that suppressing the DNA-repairing protein caused glioblastoma brain tumour cells to become more sensitive to radiation. “Radiotherapy damages the DNA in the glioblastoma cells – but the RAD51 helps them to repair this damaged DNA, meaning they can repopulate the tumour,” Prof Short said in a statement.

The team found that large amounts of the RAD51 was found inside a subgroup of the tumour cells called glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs). By inhibiting the protein, the GSCs became more sensitive to treatment, helping to remove the tumour. “The exact mechanism by which RAD51 becomes increased in cells that survive radiotherapy is not yet known,” Prof Short explained, “but our study provides strong evidence that this is the right protein to target in the treatment of this aggressive brain cancer.”

After publishing their results in a recent paper, the next step for the team will be to find an inhibitor agent that can be used in humans. “The inhibitors that we used are not yet suitable for clinical trials, but these results suggest that using equivalent agents of new drugs that target this same pathway will be important to investigate.”

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK. In a statement, senior science information officer for the charity Dr Justine Alford said: “This promising study in cells and mice may have found a way to cut off the tumour’s fuel supply, which could one day help treatments target the disease more precisely and effectively. But more research is needed to find out if this strategy could be safe and effective in people.”

Jack Redden, Reporter

Keywords: Brain Tumour, Cancer, Glioblastoma, Protein, RAD51, Stem Cells