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Scientists discover new approach to treat brain tumours

The results from the University of Surrey are from a seven-year research study on glioblastoma multiforme

Prof Hardev Pandha

A group of scientists from the University of Surrey have shared findings from a seven-year research study, revealing that a new approach could be on the horizon for treating one of the most prevalent types of brain cancer in adults, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

In the peer-reviewed study, HOX and PBX gene dysregulation as a therapeutic target in glioblastoma multiforme, published by BMC Cancer, researchers demonstrated that a short chain of amino acids – the HTL-001 peptide – has the ability to target and inhibit the function of a family of genes responsible for the growth of GBM – Hox genes.

The study was conducted in cell and animal models and the trials are now being considered for the treatment of GBM and other cancers.

Commenting on the findings, Hardev Pandha, project lead and professor of medical oncology at the University of Surrey, said: "People who suffer from glioblastoma multiforme have a 5% survival rate over a five-year period – a figure that has not improved in decades.

“While [it is] still early on in the process, our seven-year project offers a glimmer of hope for finding a solution to Hox gene dysregulation, which is associated with the growth of GBM and other cancers, and which has proven to be elusive as a target for so many years."

The dysregulation of the Hox gene is well recognised in the area of GBM. Hox genes are responsible for the healthy growth of brain tissue and are typically shut off at birth after energetic activity in the growing embryo. However, if the genes are inappropriately ‘switched on’ again, their activity can cause a progression of cancer.

Professor Susan Short, co-author of the study from the University of Leeds, said: "We desperately need new treatment avenues for these aggressive brain tumours. Targeting developmental genes like the Hox genes that are abnormally switched on in the tumour cells could be a novel and effective way to stop glioblastomas growing and becoming life-threatening."

The study was part of a collaboration with the universities of Surrey, Leeds and Texas, and HOX Therapeutics, a University of Surrey start-up company situated in the University’s Surrey Research Park.

Speaking on behalf of HOX Therapeutics, the company’s CEO James Culverwell, said: “HOX Therapeutics is excited to be associated with this project and we hope that with our continuing support, this research will eventually lead to novel and effective treatments for both brain and other cancers where HOX gene over-expression is a clear therapeutic target.”

Article by
Fleur Jeffries

13th May 2022

From: Research, Healthcare

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