Nav: Home

Getting cancer drugs to the brain is difficult -- but a new 'road map' might make it easie

November 12, 2019

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The human brain has some remarkable capabilities - including the ability to block cancer drugs from effectively reaching cancer cells in the brain.

The greatest obstacle when it comes to treating cancer that has spread to the brain is the blood-brain barrier, the brain's natural defense mechanism that is a collection of blood vessels that can filter out what goes in and out of the brain.

Purdue University scientists have provided the first comprehensive characterization of both the blood-brain and blood-tumor barriers in brain metastases of lung cancer, which will serve as a road map for treatment development. The work was recently published in Oncotarget.

The research was led by Tiffany Lyle, assistant professor of veterinary anatomic pathology, whose work focuses on the pathology of the blood-brain barrier. As the principal investigator of the Comparative Blood-Brain Barrier Laboratory, she and her team have collaborated with scientists at Purdue and the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center.

"Brain metastases occur most frequently in patients diagnosed with breast and lung cancer and melanoma," Lyle said. "These metastases have a devastating survival rate, mostly because it's so difficult to get drugs into the brain tissue because of the blood-brain barrier."

Brain metastases, or secondary brain tumors, occur when cancer cells spread from their original site to the brain. This happens in 10% to 30% of adults with cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

When cancer cells invade the brain, the blood-brain barrier transitions into the blood-tumor barrier, and this transition still presents a roadblock for effective drug delivery to the brain. The formation of the blood-tumor barrier has been insufficiently characterized in lung cancer until now, Lyle said.

"We wanted to see what changes in the blood-brain barrier were occurring rapidly and which ones were sustained over time," Lyle said. "Identifying those changes and pinpointing when they occur during the transition will be critical to developing treatment plans and being able to identify where, and when, cancer cells need to be targeted."

The blood-brain and blood-tumor barriers were analyzed in animal models with non-small-cell cancer cells and immunofluorescent imaging. Researchers also validated their findings by studying the blood-tumor barrier of brain metastases in human post-mortem tissue.

Scientists observed that one of the sustained changes during the transition from the blood-brain barrier to the blood-tumor barrier was in one of the largest cell types in the brain that has numerous functions. These cells are known as astrocytes. Lyle said that discovery alone will be key when it comes to future treatment development.

"Identifying when that change occurs during the transition is critical because it tells us when and where the brain vasculature prevents effective drug delivery," Lyle said.

Lyle also heads the Comparative Blood-Brain Barrier Laboratory at Purdue and is already collaborating with Yoon Yeo, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy, to work on improving drug delivery. Being able to truly target cancer drugs to diseased tissue could improve quality of life in patients, Lyle said.

"A goal of our research is to meaningfully contribute to the evolving field of personalized medicine and provide patients who have received a devastating diagnosis a sense of hope for treatment possibilities," Lyle said.
-end-
The work was funded by the Showalter Foundation and the Indiana Clinical Translational Sciences Institute.

Purdue University

Related Lung Cancer Articles:

Lung cancer therapy may improve outcomes of metastatic brain cancer
A medication commonly used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread, or metastasized, may have benefits for patients with metastatic brain cancers, suggests a new review and analysis led by researchers at St.
Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Lung transplant patients face elevated lung cancer risk
In an American Journal of Transplantation study, lung cancer risk was increased after lung transplantation, especially in the native (non-transplanted) lung of single lung transplant recipients.
Proposed cancer treatment may boost lung cancer stem cells, study warns
Epigenetic therapies -- targeting enzymes that alter what genes are turned on or off in a cell -- are of growing interest in the cancer field as a way of making a cancer less aggressive or less malignant.
Are you at risk for lung cancer?
This question isn't only for people who've smoked a lot.
Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer in Germany and the disease affects both men and women.
New liquid biopsy-based cancer model reveals data on deadly lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for 14 percent of all lung cancers and is often rapidly resistant to chemotherapy resulting in poor clinical outcomes.
Cancer drug leads to 'drastic decrease' in HIV infection in lung cancer patient
Doctors in France have found the first evidence that a cancer drug may be able to eradicate HIV-infected cells in humans.
Air pollution is associated with cancer mortality beyond lung cancer
A large scale epidemiological study associates some air pollutants with kidney, bladder and colorectal cancer death.
More Lung Cancer News and Lung Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.