Research highlight

Brain stem cells fight tumors

Nature Medicine

July 23, 2012

An antitumor pathway in mice and humans involving specific fatty acid molecules, vanilloids, secreted by neural progenitor cells (NPC) is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Medicine.

Neural progenitor cells, found in the juvenile brain, tend to be recruited to brain tumors, and secrete factors that induce death of cancer cells.

Rainer Glass and colleagues identify these secreted factors as vanilloids, and unravel the mechanism by which they protect the brain from tumors. Vanilloids signal through the vanilloid receptor TRPV1, which is highly expressed in malignant gliomas-cancers in the/of the brain-and activate a stress pathway in tumor cells that causes cell death. This tumor suppression effect of young NPCs could be recreated in was in adult mice with brain tumors by treatment with a synthetic vanilloid, called arvanil.

The findings suggest a potentially stronger suppressive effect of endogenous brain molecules on tumors depending on the abundance of NPCs, which may have implications for patients of different ages, and identify vanilloid-TRPV1 signaling as a candidate pathway to be targeted pharmacologically in brain tumors.

doi: 10.1038/nm.2827

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