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Why do brain tumour cells survive after radiation and chemotherapy?

By Dr Melanie McConnell

Dr Melanie McConnell has been funded $160,512 to support her research.

Dr Melanie McConnell, Victoria University of Wellington

Why do brain tumour cells survive after radiation and chemotherapy?

Glioblastoma is a type of brain tumour that is notoriously difficult to treat, in part because cells do not die after radiation and chemotherapy. One reason for this is a factor called BCL6, which is normally involved in the development of the immune system.

Previous studies have shown that BCL6 is not found in normal brain cells, but it keeps glioblastoma cells alive during radiation and chemotherapy. Dr. McConnell and her team will look at how BCL6 works in glioblastoma cells, which is clearly distinct from its activity in developing immune cells.  They will also block BCL6 activity and decipher the precise molecular events by which BCL6 keeps glioblastoma cells alive during therapy.

How will it help people affected by cancer?

People diagnosed with glioblastoma usually have a very poor prognosis due to a lack of response to therapy. This study will help improve our understanding of how BCL6 allows glioblastoma to survive therapy. Bypassing this survival advantage may be the first step towards improving treatment for patients with glioblastoma.