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Could a patient’s body clock help beat brain tumors?

  • Researcher: Dr Satchidananda Panda
  • Institution: Salk Institute, La Jolla, USA
  • Award Amount: £180,294 from 1st September 2015 for 2 years
  • Cancer Type: Brain Tumour
Could a patient’s body clock help beat brain tumors?
Circadian rhythms or ‘body clocks’ are present in nearly all cells of animals and humans.  They help us adapt to the predictable daily change in light, temperature and environmental conditions.

Dr Satchidananda Panda explains “A prolonged disruption of our body clock – for example in shift work – has recently been confirmed as a novel cancer risk factor by the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Body clock genes regulate several basic functions of the cells, including energy usage, interaction with their environment, the way they respond to DNA damage and cell division; these processes are also disrupted in cancer. Therefore, altering the body clock genes could be a novel way to kill the cancer cells. However, this concept has never been exploited for the generation of new anticancer therapies.”

He continued “We want to test this hypothesis as a novel treatment option for the most aggressive brain cancer: glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). GBM has poor survival rates, it develops resistance to current treatments and often reoccurs.  Previous studies indicate that GBM stem cells are one way the cancer returns and so are a crucial target for the generation of new treatments.

GBM stem cells show disruption of circadian rhythms, yet expression of some of the clock genes continue. We recently observed that interrupting clock genes with drugs can trigger a cascade of gene expression changes leading to cell death only in GBM stem cells and sparing the normal cells.

The GBM stem cells are also more sensitive to these clock drugs than the current drugs on the market. In order to verify the use of these drugs as a novel therapy for GBM we propose exploring the efficiency in patient-derived glioblastoma tissue samples alone or in combination with other standard drugs on the market. This study may provide a previously unknown therapeutic strategy for GBM treatment and open the road for a novel class of drugs.”
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