A group of Spanish researchers has found a way to slow the progression of the most serious brain tumors. The key is in the tau protein, which is responsible for the onset of Alzheimer’s, but which manages to slow the development of gliomas (a type of brain tumor).
Brain tumors are classified based on the cell that gives rise to the central nervous system and the degree of it shows the difference between a slow or fast growing tumor. Up to Grade III, tumors tend to evolve slowly and life expectancy is over 15 years. But when the tumors reach Grade IV, the treatments are not as effective and the patient may have only 15 months to live.
Now, according to Jesús Ávila, a scientist at the Center for Molecular Biology Severo Ochoa and one of the authors of this study, when the tau protein is present in the brain, the tumors are not so aggressive.
In gliomas, tau protein has a protective factor: the greater the amount of protein, the less the tumor spreads, ”he explained to Science Translational Medicine, an American magazine focused on health issues.
The tau protein was, until now, one of the “villains” of neurological diseases since it is directly related to the onset of Alzheimer’s. In this degenerative disease, tau is harmful because it focuses on neurons, killing them.
Tau is also always present in less aggressive tumors, but when the amount of this protein decreases, the tumors tend to become stronger. The scientists concluded that this happens because this protein reinforces the microtubules, that is, the “skeleton” of the cells. One of the first effects of cancer is to weaken this “skeleton”, so tau will prevent that from happening.
The study looked at tissue samples from hundreds of brain tumor patients: 180 patient samples from Madrid and Valencia and 700 patient samples collected by the University of California.
Now, the researchers found that there is a drug, a derivative of Taxol – Taxol is widely used for other treatments of oncological diseases – which is able to mimic the protective role of the tau protein and make tumors more vulnerable to chemotherapy. .
An important discovery, as scientists point out, to stop the evolution of tumors that are very discouraging.
Aggressive brain tumors are very discouraging. (…) Currently, treatments include surgery, but cancer soon appears again. Most experiments with patients to test new drugs are not having positive results, “said Ricardo Gargini, one of the study’s authors.
However, the study authors point out that it is still necessary to deepen this study. A process that can take years and that also requires investment by pharmaceutical companies.