Understanding the role of transcription factors in tumour development

Glioblastomas are the most common type of brain cancer found in adults. They are highly aggressive tumours for which effective treatment options are lacking, highlighting the urgent need for new therapeutic strategies. Like many other cancers, brain tumours are heavily influenced by their surroundings.

It is therefore important to understand how the tumour cells interact with the healthy brain and respond under certain conditions such as hypoxia (a lack of oxygen in the tissue), as this is likely to reveal new ways to target them.

The interaction between tumour cells and the brain

During tumour development, the cells rapidly exhaust the nutrient and oxygen supply because they are growing so quickly, and the tumour becomes hypoxic (lacks oxygen).

In response to a lack of oxygen, astrocytes become reactive and form a scar around the tumour. The formation of this scar contributes to the failure of treatments and is controlled by transcription factors. Transcription factors are special proteins that help turn specific genes “on" or “off".

The aim of this research project, led by Dr Sebastian Serres, is to understand which transcription factors are controlling scar formation, and to test whether blocking these transcription factors prevents scar formation and reduces tumour growth. To accomplish this, the researchers will use both human tumour samples and animal models of glioblastomas to study the interaction between astrocytes and tumour cells in low oxygen conditions.

Identifying new pathways for therapies

This research project will help us better understand how the interaction between healthy brain tissue and tumour cells influences tumour survival and growth, and identify ways in which we can disrupt these interactions with drugs to slow tumour growth.

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