A lot of my research focuses on studying glioblastoma brain tumors and their structural patterns. Glioblastoma, or glioblastoma multiforme, is the most common malignant adult brain tumor due to its ability to rapidly spread into the normal brain and resist therapeutics. Common treatments for glioblastoma (GBM) include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. However, the 5-year survival rate for GBM remains only 6%, meaning that only 6% of GBM patients survive after 5 years. Additionally, cancer usually recurs after treatment.This rate is extremely low compared to almost every other cancer, and my research works to find solutions to this problem.
Glioblastoma cells in culture:
Cells are transfected with green fluorescent protein (GFP) and their nuclei are stained blue with DAPI. Interestingly, the GBM cell does not stain for the tumor-suppressor protein, Pten, which might increase cell mobility, and in turn, tumor metastasis.
Source: NIH National Cancer Institute; Can Immunotherapy Succeed in Glioblastoma?
Credit: Cell Image Library / Wellcome Images
Common GBM Treatments:
- Surgery: The first treatment for GBM is surgery. During surgery, the neurosurgeon will attempt to remove as much as the tumor, made up of about 1011 cells, as possible. It has been shown that removing 98% or more tumor greatly increases post-surgery “healthy time” compared to when less than 98% is removed. However, due to GBM’s ability to invade into the normal brain tissue, it is difficult to remove and additional treatments are necessary.
- Radiation Therapy or Radiotherapy: After surgery, radiation therapy is commonly used to attempt to kill remaining cancer cells. In radiotherapy, a high-energy beam will be directed on the tumor in order to control or kill malignant cells. Radiation damages the cell’s DNA resulting in cell, and tumor, death.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is commonly used alongside radiotherapy, as co-treatment has been shown to greatly enhance patient prognosis. The most common chemotherapeutic is temozolomide. Although much is still unknown, temozolomide seems to work by sensitizing cancer cells to radiotherapy, causing them to be more susceptible to cell death.