A protein that inhibits the growth of cancer-causing stem cells and turns them into normal brain cells may become an effective therapy for deadly brain tumors, researchers have reported in the journal Nature.
A team led by Angelo Vescovi of the University of Milan-Bicocca in Italy took cancer stem cells removed from people with glioblastomas, the deadliest kind of primary brain cancer, and exposed them in a laboratory dish to a protein called BMP.
"We immediately observed that these cells stopped growing," Vescovi said. The protein "forced the cancer stem cells to change their identity, to become more mature, more normal."
When mice with glioblastomas were given BMP they grew either no tumors or small ones, often living out a normal life span. Untreated mice died quickly.
Vescovi said his lab will now carry out more animal studies and will work to figure out the best dosage and method of delivering the protein into the brain so it can be used safely in humans.