New Advance in Brain Cancer Therapy
Discovery at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute Catalyzes New Advance in Brain Cancer Therapy
Anti-viral drug cidofovir proven to slow tumor growth in glioblastomas and enhance the effects of radiation therapy
Contact: Dean Fryer 415.600.7484
or pager 415.232.6463
October 29, 2013 (San Francisco, CA)
Scientists at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute (CPMCRI) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have discovered a novel treatment for glioblastoma—the most common and severe form of brain cancer—using an anti-viral drug. Cidofovir, an FDA-approved therapy for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection, was shown to slow brain tumor growth and significantly increase survival.
The study was published online today in Clinical Cancer Research.
“We anticipate these findings will revolutionize the treatment of brain tumors,” said Dr. Piotr Hadaczek, an investigator at CPMCRI and first author of the study. “No prior evidence has shown a role for cidofovir as a potent anti-cancer agent against glioblastoma.”
CPMCRI scientists Dr. Liliana Soroceanu and Dr. Charles Cobbs (co-authors of the study) previously demonstrated that HCMV infection is linked to the development of glioblastoma, and follow-up research in Dr. Soroceanu’s lab has further explored how the virus may reside in the brain’s stem cells before those cells become malignant. The virus is present in approximately 90% of primary brain tumors.
“We were surprised that, even in the absence of HCMV infection, the drug caused tumor cell death and augmented the effects of radiation in delaying tumor progression,” said Dr. Soroceanu.
The researchers treated human brain tumor cells with cidofovir, both in the presence and absence of HCMV infection. To assess the effects in vivo, they subsequently administered the drug (alone or in combination with radiation therapy) to mice with brain tumors generated from human brain tumor cells.
Cancer cells treated with cidofovir underwent apoptosis (cell death), independent of HCMV infection. Mice treated with the drug had delayed tumor development, and cidofovir significantly extended their survival compared with untreated animals. Cidofovir plus radiation therapy—the current standard of care in brain tumors—significantly extended survival compared with either treatment alone.
The researchers found that cidofovir is incorporated into the genetic machinery of tumor cells, causing DNA damage and inhibiting tumor cell proliferation. Yet the drug was shown to primarily affect rapidly dividing cells (as occurs during cancerous growth), sparing healthy cells that grow more slowly.
“This is an exciting potential approach to treat brain tumors, because it targets the most basic mechanisms of cancer cell survival—DNA replication and damage repair,” said Dr. Cobbs, Director of the Ivy Center at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF, former Senior Scientist at CPMCRI, and lead author of the study.
“This approach to killing tumors offers a promising and practical strategy alongside radiation therapy to improve treatment outcomes for glioblastoma patients.” Dr. Cobbs notes that a clinical trial using cidofovir for glioblastoma patients is expected to begin next year.
Each year in the U.S., 15,000 people are diagnosed with brain cancer. Even with standard-of-care radiation therapy, most patients have an expected survival of approximately 15 months after diagnosis. Other recently published data on the use of anti-viral therapies for the treatment of cancer showed that valganciclovir significantly improved the outcome of glioblastoma patients (N Engl J Med 2013), a finding that sparked new research in this area.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants R01NS070289-02 to Dr. Cobbs; 1R21NS067395-01 to Dr. Soroceanu), American Cancer Society grant RSG-09-197-01 to Dr. Cobbs, and by additional funds from the Accelerated Brain Cancer Cure Foundation and the Flaming Foundation.
About California Pacific Medical Center
At San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center we deliver personal, hands-on care to every single patient, every single day. As one of California’s largest private, community-based, not-for-profit medical centers, we research the most up-to-date treatments, hire the most qualified individuals, and practice the most modern, innovative medicine available. We deliver the highest-quality expert care with kindness and compassion in acute, post-acute and outpatient services, as well as preventive and complementary medicine. We also provide disease counseling, family support and wellness treatments.
The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute creates an active partnership between clinicians and researchers, merging research institute interests with the needs of the medical center. When associated with a research program, physicians have knowledge and access to more effective treatments and diagnostic technologies. For more information, please visit http://cpmcri.org.