The Polytechnic University of Valencia (Universitat Politècnica de València, UPV) is taking part in Lumiblast, a European project to develop an innovative approach to hard-to-treat brain tumours like glioblastomas. Specifically, the researchers will exploit mitochondrial luminescence to destroy the tumour cells.
Brain cancers such as glioblastoma multiforme (GMA) are practically uncurable due to their location, and invasive and highly-aggressive nature. Current treatments includes craniotomies, radiation and chemotherapy, and even with all this, average life expectancy is as short as a year.
As Miguel ángel Miranda, professor at the UPV and researcher at the Chemical Technology Institute (UPV-CSIC), tells us, the use of light-based treatments (photodynamic therapy) for glioblastomas has been tested clinically, though with little success. The main reason is that the spread of light through the tissue is very limited. These therapies are also very invasive, since the need for external light generally means they require brain surgery.
Lumiblast proposes a new approach to photodynamic therapy, whereby the light is generated from inside the cells themselves, making the use of external light sources unnecessary. "In this technique, the mitochondria activate a compound that generates light, which in turn activates the drug itself. We hope to establish a new method for treating brain tumours that are today considered impossible to reach," Miranda adds.
Among the advantages of this therapy are that it will allow action to be taken on each cell individually and not directed at the tumour as a whole, "which could enable the full removal of gliobastomas that until now have been incurable", Miranda adds.
The UPV's contributions to the Lumiblast project will focus on the photochemical analysis of the compounds used to generate light inside the mitochondria.