New brain tumor subtypes discovery may help develop treatments for incurable brain cancer

December 6, 2022 - 2 minutes
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Research led by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Ireland has discovered three new subtypes of brain tumor.

This could help to identify new and effective therapies. The novel tumor subtypes are forms of glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive form of adult primary brain cancer with no cure currently available.

The research, published in Annals of Oncology, has identified that glioblastoma tumors can be placed into three categories based on the different kind of non-cancer cells that can be found within the tumor. These so-called tumor microenvironment cells can include immune cells and blood vessel cells.

Precision medicine

Currently, the majority of patients with glioblastoma are treated in the same way. Further investigation of these newly identified subtypes will mean that different patients could receive precision medicine treatment specific to the cells in their own tumor. 

Senior author and lead investigator, Annette Byrne, head of the RCSI Precision Cancer Medicine Group, said: “Glioblastoma patients currently have a poor prognosis due to limited treatment options so it is vital that new treatments be developed. Targeted treatment or ‘precision medicine’ has the potential to improve outcomes for these patients. We hope further analysis of the tumor subtypes identified in this research, will provide the data needed to support future glioblastoma clinical trials in Ireland.”

Precision medicine approaches could include the use of immune-targeting therapies (immunotherapies) in patients that have the tumor subtype defined by high levels of immune cells within their tumor microenvironment. An assessment of glioblastoma clinical trial datasets by this research group provided support for this idea, showing that patients with this subtype of tumor may have an improved outcome when treated with immunotherapies compared to other subtypes.

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The study’s first authors are Kieron White and Kate Connor from the RCSI Precision Cancer Medicine Group, Department of Physiology.

These RCSI-led findings result from a collaborative initiative that also involved clinical colleagues from the National Centre of Neurosurgery, Beaumont Hospital Dublin (Ireland), members of the GLIOTRAIN brain tumor research consortium (INSERM and the Paris Brain Institute ICM, VIB-KU Leuven Centre for Cancer Biology, The Jackson Laboratory Erasmus MC), and several clinical collaborators from U.S. brain tumor research centers.

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