New Drug May Increase Effectiveness of Radiation Treatment for Brain Cancer

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brainplaqueScientists at the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University are conducting a fascinating preclinical study on a novel new drug. The clinical applications of an ATM inhibitor are varied, but the most exciting of its uses is related to its ability to increase the effectiveness of radiation treatment on glioblastoma multiforme.

GBM is the deadliest form of brain cancer, with a survival rate that hovers around 8%. Ataxia telangiectasia mutated – ATM – is an enzyme that the human brain uses to repair DNA damage. One of the major hurdles in treating Gliomas (brain tumors originating in the glial cells that support the nerve cells of the brain) is that ATM begins repairing damage to the tumor’s DNA after every radiation treatment.

KU-60019 is the experimental new drug being tested at the Massey Cancer Center. Its purpose is to block the activation of ATM; in turn causing radiation to be more effective in the treatment of gliomas. And so far, studies conducted have shown significant increases in the lifespan of the mouse models being treated with KU-60019.

The combination approach of radiation and KU-60019 has been especially effective on gliomas with a mutation in the p53 tumor suppressor genes. This is welcome news, since roughly 20-30% of all glioma cases include this mutation.

At the moment, patients with glioblastoma have an average life expectancy of just 15 months post diagnosis. The hope for KU-60019 and any future ATM inhibitors is that they will join treatments like surgery and radiation to give these patients longer lives and a more hopeful outlook.

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