Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Preventing glioblastoma tumours from importing new ‘batteries’ from brain cells

Dr Rubén Quintana-Cabrera
Project period
Feb 2024 - Jan 2027
Research Institute
Spanish National Research Council
Cancer types
Brain cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Rubén Quintana-Cabrera and his team are investigating exactly how glioblastoma brain tumour cells can take in new cell ‘batteries’ from the brain, and whether this trick helps this particularly aggressive cancer keep surviving and growing.

Hope for the future

Glioblastoma is a type of fast-growing brain tumour. It is one of the most common types of tumour that begins in the brain, or develops there when it spreads from other tissues through metastasis. Unfortunately it can also be particularly difficult to treat, and new treatments are very much needed.

One reason glioblastoma is so hard to treat is that the cancer cells can often adapt quickly to new treatments. They develop resistance, and the treatment stops working so well. Researchers think that one way they do this is by connecting with surrounding healthy cells and taking in new “batteries”. This allows them to quickly adjust their capacity to produce energy, change the way they use nutrients, or even reprogram their fate.

Dr Rubén Quintana-Cabrera and his team will investigate if stopping glioblastoma cells from acquiring more “batteries” from could be a new way to target the disease, and reduce resistance to treatment.

This project is co-funded with Asociación española contra el cáncer

Headshot of Ruben with his science lab in the background

Meet the scientist

The team work hard in the lab, but they also like to enjoy themselves. Rubén likes tennis, biking and hiking, and especially enjoys gathering around with friends and enjoying food. Spanish food is the usual, but he also loves Italian or Asian and Rubén says this is the perfect way to make his day!

The science

Glioblastoma tumour cells can develop networks of tiny tunnels connecting them to healthy cells. They use these tunnels to bring in “batteries” called mitochondria- an important part of the cell that respires, generates energy from metabolism and programmes a range of crucial events within the cell, including self-destruction. With your help Dr Rubén Quintana-Cabrera and his team will investigate stopping this mitochondria transfer from the brain to the tumour along these tunnels, or through exchange within vesicles that carry substances in and out of cells.

The team plan to use several cutting-edge molecular techniques during this project. They will apply tiny molecular ‘tethers’ to understand what happens if mitochondria are physically prevented from entering glioblastoma cells. They will also study if changing the shape, or the molecular feet/wheels of the mitochondria could prevent their transfer between cells.

This exciting new work will help us to understand if targeting the dynamics of mitochondrial transport and transfer could be a new way to reduce treatment resistance and stop this devastating disease.

Headshot of Ruben with his science lab in the background Dr Rubén Quintana-Cabrera
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