Glasgow scientists brain tumour breakthrough

Cancer patient

Drug appears effective in treating brain tumours conference will be told  

6th November 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Glasgow scientists have found a drug used to treat ovarian cancer can treat brain tumours.

The cancer drug olaparib could be an effective treatment for glioblastoma, a common type of brain tumour, suggest results presented at the National Cancer Research Institute’s (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool, today (Monday).

The Cancer Research UK-funded trial, which was managed by the charity’s Centre for Drug Development and led from the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, tested whether the ovarian cancer drug olaparib could reach glioblastoma, a type of brain tumour which is very difficult to treat. And early results show it successfully reaches brain tumours at high enough levels for treatment.

The successful delivery of this drug is an important step as many others have failed to reach the tumour.

Around 265 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma*** in the brain every year in Scotland.

Professor Anthony Chalmers, lead researcher and chair of clinical oncology at the University of Glasgow, said: “Brain tumours are stubbornly difficult to treat and one of the main reasons for this is the blood brain barrier, a natural filter that blocks the passage of drugs.

“But these results suggest that olaparib is able to leak through because this barrier is disrupted in glioblastoma. By showing that this drug reaches brain tumours, we are in a much stronger position to use it to make current treatments more effective.”

The study recruited 48 patients with glioblastoma which had returned after initial treatment. The majority of patients were then given olaparib in combination with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.

Brain tumours are stubbornly difficult to treat - Professor Anthony Chalmers

Scientists looked at tumour samples and found that the drug penetrates the core of the tumour as well as the surrounding areas which contain smaller numbers of cancerous cells.

Cancer cells in these regions cannot be removed by surgery so reaching them with drugs is crucial.

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development, said: “While overall survival for cancer is improving, survival for brain tumours is still very low and the blood brain barrier is a significant pharmacological obstacle. 

“Experimental trials like this, which test new ways to reach these hard to treat tumours, are crucially important if we are to see more patients survive their cancer.”