Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and deadly form of primary malignant brain cancer accounting for approximately 15% of all brain tumours and occurring mostly in adults between the ages of 45 and 70. The aggressive recurrent nature of this cancer is only temporarily contained by combined surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The recurrence of GBM is usually fatal, resulting in an average patient survival time of less than two years. A new study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital - The Neuro - at McGill University, published in Nature Communications, identifies two specific key players in the growth of GBM.
A GBM tumour contains a complex combination of different cell types, including 'stem-like' cells that are able to initiate brain tumour growth, even when present in very small numbers. These cells, known as brain-tumour initiating cells (BTICs), are believed to be among the cells that can re-initiate GBM if they are not completely eradicated through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Thus, BTICs represent an important therapeutic target for GBM treatment strategies.