Brain tumors form synapses with healthy neurons, Stanford-led study finds – Stanford Medical Center Report

Using optogenetic techniques, which relied on laser light to activate the cancer cells in mice implanted with human gliomas, the researchers demonstrated that increasing electrical signals into the tumors caused more tumor growth. Proliferation of the tumors was largely prevented when glioma cells expressed a gene that blocked transmission of the electrical signals.

Existing drugs that block electrical currents also reduced growth of high-grade gliomas, the research found. A seizure medication called perampanel, which blocks activity of neurotransmitter receptors on the receiving end of a synapse, reduced proliferation of pediatric gliomas implanted into mice by 50%. Meclofenamate, a drug that blocks the action of gap junctions, resulted in a similar decrease in tumor proliferation.

Monjes team plans to continue investigating whether blocking electrical signaling within tumors could help people with high-grade gliomas. Its a really hopeful new direction, and as a clinician Im quite excited about it, she said.

Other Stanford co-authors of the paper are staff scientist Wade Morishita, PhD; postdoctoral scholars Anna Geraghty, PhD, Marlene Arzt, MD, and Kathryn Taylor, PhD; graduate student Shawn Gillespie; medical student Lydia Tam; staff scientist Cedric Espenel, PhD; research assistants Anitha Ponnuswami, Lijun Ni and Pamelyn Woo; Hannes Vogel, MD, professor of pathology and of pediatrics; and Robert Malenka, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Monje is a member of Stanford Bio-X, the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, the Stanford Maternal & Child Health Research Institute, the Stanford Cancer Institute and the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford.

Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan and the University of California-San Francisco also contributed to the research.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grant DP1 NS111132), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (grant NINDS R01NS092597), the National Cancer Institute (grant F31CA200273), the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation, the ChadTough Foundation, the V Foundation, Ians Friends Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Mckenna Claire Foundation, Alexs Lemonade Stand Foundation, The Cure Starts Now Foundation and DIPG Collaborative, the Lyla Nsouli Foundation, Unravel Pediatric Cancer, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Joey Fabus Childhood Cancer Foundation, the N8 Foundation, the Sam Jeffers Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, and the Stanford Maternal & Child Health Research Institutes Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Endowed Faculty Scholarship in Pediatric Cancer and Blood Diseases.

Stanfords Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences also supported the work.

A second paper showing similar findings by another team of researchers was published simultaneously in Nature.

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Brain tumors form synapses with healthy neurons, Stanford-led study finds - Stanford Medical Center Report

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