Astrocytomas are a type of brain tumour and they belong to a group of tumours called gliomas. Gliomas are the most common type of malignant brain tumours.
The specific reasons for tumour recurrence post-treatment have not been fully understood. One potential mechanism through which tumours recur has been investigated by the research team led by Professor Frank Winkler at Heidelberg University.
Professor Winkler recently presented his fascinating research at Glioma Club, 2017, last week.
Co-funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, Glioma Club is a one-day meeting which brings together researchers, clinical scientists, and PhD students to collaborate and listen to exciting on-going research.
To understand the function and progression of astrocytomas, the researchers observed the tumours in three-dimensions and discovered that many cells within the tumour invaded areas of healthy cells using long and thin protrusions. These protrusions, called tumour microtubules, formed a widespread network.
This network was used for cells to communicate with each other, as well as for growth and repair.
To further investigate the role of this network, the researchers used a laser to kill some of the cells within the network. They noted that other cells within the network helped to 'repair' the tumour by replacing the lost cells. This repair mechanism could be the reason behind tumour recurrences.
For individuals undergoing treatment for astrocytomas, the procedure of surgically removing the tumour could represent the laser, which would explain why tumours recur in the same location.
In addition, the researchers observed that the cells within the network were resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
These findings are significant because they increase our knowledge on how tumours grow and why some of them are resistant to treatment.
They also serve as a foundation upon which treatments targeting the tumour network can be developed.