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Discovery May Explain Why Brain Cancer Is So Hard to Treat

Cancer cells remake themselves, circumventing drug treatments, study finds

THURSDAY, Jan. 27, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have found that brain cancer cells can turn themselves into blood vessel cells to counter drugs designed to cut off a tumor's blood supply and deprive it of oxygen and nutrients.

This ensures an adequate oxygen supply, according to the researchers, and it helps explain why glioblastoma, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer, resists nearly all treatment efforts.

They also said that the finding, reported online Jan. 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates the need to rethink current glioblastoma therapy and perhaps develop drugs that take aim at new targets.

"Disrupting the formation of tumor blood vessels is not enough," Inder Verma, a genetics professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in La Jolla, Calif., and the research team leader, said in a Salk news release. "We also have to prevent the conversion of tumor cells into blood vessel cells."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about brain tumors.

SOURCE: Salk Institute for Biological Studies, news release, Jan. 24, 2011
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