A new compound discovered by scientists at Scripps Research may prove to be a powerful weapon in the fight against one of the most aggressive and deadly types of cancer. Just like the cancer it fights, the compound is incredibly strong, selectively targeting the cells that allow glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) to rapidly take over the brain.

The research, which was published in a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains how the stem-like cancer cells of GBM promote growth of the tumor while also aiding it in recurrence even after a patient has had surgery. Stopping these cells from doing their deadly deed is crucial to successful treatment, and the new compound — which the scientists have nicknamed RIPGBM — does just that.

Glioblastomas are thought to be so deadly because the stem-like cells that promote its growth are highly resistant to the effects of chemotherapy and other traditional cancer treatments. This allows the cells to spread into new areas and even generate new tumors after one has been successfully removed in surgery.

This makes GBM is incredibly deadly, and while treatment options are available it’s generally considered to be incurable. RIPGBM could change that due to its incredibly strong effect on the cancer cells it targets.

The researchers say that in lab testing the drug was shown to be over 40 times as efficient at destroying GBM cells when compared to the current most popular GBM prescription drug. RIPGBM’s potency is only felt by the cancerous cells, which is important in maintaining otherwise healthy brain tissue. The compound effectively ignores noncancerous brain cells while hunting down the tumor cells.

Going forward, the drug will undergo more testing and hopefully lead to human trials.

“Our discovery of this compound and the cellular pathways it affects offers a promising new strategy for treating glioblastoma,” principal investigator Luke Lairson, PhD, said in a statement. Let’s hope he’s right.

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