Brain tumours, in particular a type called Glioblastoma, can spread quickly through the brain. This makes it a difficult cancer to treat. One major advance in the research of brain cancer was the identification of brain tumour stem cells (BTSCs). Stem cells are a kind of "starter cell", which can multiply and change into a wide variety of other cell types, depending on where they are located in the body. It is thought that these BTSCs are the most dangerous type of cell within brain tumours. BTSCs are able to "renew" themselves, and are therefore able to avoid being killed by anti-tumour treatments. Scientists want to try to develop drugs that stop the BTSCs from growing and spreading within the brain.
Dr Wurdak previously found that a protein called TRRAP was directly involved in making BTSCs grow. There is also evidence that brain tumour patients that have TRRAP in their tumours may be less likely to survive the disease. There are currently no treatments that stop TRRAP from working because there are many molecules related to the protein, and scientists donUt yet fully understand exactly how TRRAP works with the BTSCs.
Dr Wurdak and his team will use the Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study how TRRAP works and which parts of the protein are responsible for making the BTSCs grow. They want to find out whether removing TRRAP at the time when the brain tumour is spreading to other parts of the brain can stop the spread of the disease. They also hope to test whether blocking TRRAP might be a way to enhance the effects of chemotherapy. They hope that their research will ultimately allow drugs to be developed against TRRAP, leading to new treatments for incurable types of brain cancer.