Beating therapy resistance with fluorescent dye

Using fluorescent dye to reveal different parts of glioblastoma tumours during surgery so we can investigate how they grow back and what effect that has on how the tumour responds to treatment.

Dr Colin Watts and his team at the University of Cambridge hope to understand the biological make-up of glioblastoma cells and how this influences the response to treatment.

Glioblastomas are highly aggressive and often become resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, leading to poor patient outcomes. Understanding why resistance to treatment occurs and how to prevent this from happening is essential.

The team will be investigating the theory that tumours are made up from distinct regions of cells, and that cells within each region have different properties which determine their response to treatment.

To investigate this, the team have developed a new imaging technique that uses fluorescent dyes to distinguish the regions within glioblastoma tumours. Samples of cells will be taken from each region during surgery and the genetic and biochemical profiles of the cells analysed.

Understanding the biological differences between each region, such as which genes are switched on and off, may enable researchers to see how these differences influence the tumour's behaviour in response to therapy.

This work may lead to the development of treatments which specifically target each region of the tumour. This may help to overcome the important issue where residual tissue remains after surgery, comprised of cells that do not respond to chemotherapy, leading to regrowth of the tumour.

Finding new means of treating glioblastomas is of great importance - this tumour type is among the most aggressive, with only 3.3% of patients surviving for more than two years. Glioblastomas are a highly malignant and invasive form of tumour that develops from astrocytes, star shaped cells which support and protect the nerve cells within the brain.

Project information

Formal title: Characterising residual disease in human glioblastoma using a novel intra-operative

Key Researcher: Dr Colin Watts, University of Cambridge

Tumour type: Glioblastoma

Timing: Granted in March 2013 for 3 years

Research type: Tumour biology