Glioblastoma multiforme is a very aggressive type of brain tumour, the most common in adults. It is extremely hard to treat and requires burdensome clinical interventions. Even with standard-of-care surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, patients are confronted with a very poor prognosis and a high risk of disease recurrence.
To tackle this unmet clinical need, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, led by Dr Gabriela Kramer-Marek, joined force with scientists at the Medical University of Silesia (Poland) to design an innovative solution to eradicate residual cancer cells during surgery.
This project was largely funded by the CRUK Convergence Science Centre through our Development Fund programme.
This novel approach uses affibodies (AffibodyAB, Sweden), which are engineered proteins that can strongly recognise and bind to specific targets, very similarly to antibodies, but are smaller and easier to engineer. The affibodies are designed to recognise a receptor, the EGF Receptor, highly present in cancer cells in over half of glioblastoma multiforme cases and contain a fluorescent dye, IR700. In a preclinical study involving cell lines and mouse models, Dr Kramer-Marek and collaborators showed that the affibodies are capable of binding specifically to brain cancer cells and to be visualised using near-infrared light irradiation. Additionally, the irradiation generates toxic reactive oxygen species within the targeted cancer cells, leading to a particular type of cell death with immunogenic properties. This entails that not only this approach would kill residual cancer cells targeted by the affibodies, but would also promote the recruitment of the immune system, further elimination of tumour and, potentially, and enhanced protection against recurrences. It is hoped that affibodies could be used during tumour resection surgeries as a visualisation and eradication tool of the tumour margins and infiltrating cancers, which currently cannot be dealt with.
This exciting new technological development received coverage by The Guardian, the article can be found here.
To learn more in detail about this research, the publication of the results is openly accessible in the journal BMC Medicine. It was also covered in further details on The Institute of Cancer Research website.