When it comes to fitness and nutrition, cholesterol has become a bad word. But a team of researchers has discovered that the substance may turn out to be a surprising hero in the fight against cancer.
Brain Cancer Treatment Hits a Dead End
Details of the study, conducted jointly by Ludwig Cancer Research San Diego and Scripps, were published last fall in Cancer Cell. The project involved glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer.
The scientific community had reached an impasse in the treatment of GBM. Although the cancer cells had been extensively studied, targeted therapies based on these analyses proved ineffective and served only to increase the tumor’s drug resistance.
Hope Comes from an Unlikely Source
The research team found clues in the way brain cells process cholesterol. The brain actually manufactures its own cholesterol, and when the cells have enough a receptor is activated that starts releasing the excess.
In contrast, GBM cells crave large amounts of cholesterol but do not manufacture it. Their shut-off receptor remains inactive, allowing them to “steal” cholesterol from normal cells and use it to grow.
Researchers implanted GBM tumors from humans into mice and treated them with a drug that triggers the shut-off receptor. As a result, many of the cancer cells were destroyed, causing significant shrinkage in the tumors and extending the lives of the affected mice.
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