New drug enhances radiation treatment for brain cancer in pre-clinical studies

A novel drug may help increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy for the most deadly form of brain cancer, report scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center. In mouse models of human glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the new drug helped significantly extend survival when used in combination with radiation therapy.

The study provides the first pre-clinical evidence demonstrating that an ATM kinase inhibitor radiosensitizes gliomas. Gliomas are brain tumours that originate from glial cells, which provide support for nerve cells and help regulate the internal environment of the brain. ATM, or ataxia telangiectasia mutated, is an enzyme that helps repair DNA damage. The scientists used an experimental drug, KU-60019, to block the activation of ATM, which led to the enhanced destruction of the gliomas due to their reduced ability to repair the DNA damage caused by the radiation treatment. The new approach was particularly effective against gliomas that have a mutation in the p53 tumour suppressor gene, which accounts for approximately 30 percent of all glioma cases.

‘Sadly, the average life expectancy of patients diagnosed with glioblastoma is just 12 to 15 months,’ says the study