Researchers seek to understand brain's immune response to metastasized cancer

September 25, 2012
Researchers seek to understand brain's immune response to metastasized cancer

Brain metastases are common secondary complications of other types of cancer, particularly lung, breast and skin cancer. The body's own immune response in the brain is rendered powerless in the fight against these metastases by inflammatory reactions. Researchers at the MedUni Vienna have now, for the first time, precisely characterised the brain's immune response to infiltrating metastases. This could pave the way to the development of new, less aggressive treatment options.

"The active phagocytes are quite literally overwhelmed by the tumour and even the white blood cells are too weak to fight off these metastases on their own; they have to be stimulated before they can have any effect," explains oncologist Matthias Preusser from the University Department of Internal Medicine I and the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC), a joint institution operated by the MedUni Vienna and the Vienna General Hospital.

was obtained for investigation from autopsies carried out on people who had metastatic disease secondary to breast, lung or skin cancer. These are also the most common types of primary tumour. develop because they spread from the tumours into other parts of the body right up to the brain.

The scientists at the Clinical Institute of Neurology, the Centre for Brain Research, the CCC and the University Department of Internal Medicine I have discovered that metastases in the brain do encounter a wall of , but it is too weak to successfully arrest the tumour's development. To do this, white blood cells (lymphocytes) need to be mobilised in greater numbers as the second instance of the system.

These findings could lead to new therapeutic strategies being developed that will aim to increase the activation of or other parts of the immune system – perhaps through medication such as antibody treatments or vaccines.

300 to 400 patients with brain metastases are treated each year at the MedUni Vienna. The standard treatment in most cases is radiotherapy to the head or generalised irradiation of the brain – which is associated with certain risks and possible side effects. Only in very few cases are drug-based treatment methods available for certain . Says Preusser: "Our findings could represent an important step towards the development of less aggressive forms of treatment."

The study has been drawn up across various disciplines at the Clinical Institute of Neurology, the Department of Neuroimmunology at the Centre for and at the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CNS Tumours Unit). Author Anna Sophie Berghoff from the CCC presented the findings of the study at a lecture given at the Congress of the European Association of Neuro-Oncologists (EANO) in Marseilles.

Explore further: Trastuzumab and chemotherapy improved survival in HER2-postive breast and brain cancer patients

More information: Anna Sophie Berghoff, Hans Lassmann, Matthias Preusser, Romana Höftberger. Characterization of the inflammatory response to solid cancer metastases in the human brain Clin. Exp. Metastasis, 2012, DOI:10.1007/s10585-012-9510-4

Related Stories

Trastuzumab and chemotherapy improved survival in HER2-postive breast and brain cancer patients

July 18, 2011
The use of trastuzumab, chemotherapy and surgery among women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer significantly improved survival from the time central nervous system metastases were diagnosed.

Scientists develop first snap shot of tiny brain tumours

March 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A new imaging technique may be able to detect cancers that have spread to the brain while they are still small.

New drug shrinks brain tumours in melanoma patients

May 21, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Australian researchers have reported promising results with a new drug that shrinks brain tumours in melanoma patients. Their findings are published in The Lancet medical journal today.

Potential new therapeutic target for a subset of aggressive breast cancers

March 1, 2012
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim have now discovered that they can prevent the formation of metastases by blocking the receptor protein Plexin B1.

Mechanism for more efficient cancer treatment decoded

January 19, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A research team from the Institute for Cancer Research at the MedUni Vienna has decoded a previously unknown mechanism of the active ingredient imiquimod in tumour defence. They have been able to prove ...

Recommended for you

Major study of genetics of breast cancer provides clues to mechanisms behind the disease

October 23, 2017
Seventy-two new genetic variants that contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer have been identified by a major international collaboration involving hundreds of researchers worldwide.

Proton therapy lowers treatment side effects in pediatric head and neck cancer patients

October 23, 2017
Pediatric patients with head and neck cancer can be treated with proton beam therapy (PBT) instead of traditional photon radiation, and it will result in similar outcomes with less impact on quality of life. Researchers from ...

New study shows how cells can be led down non-cancer path

October 23, 2017
As cells with a propensity for cancer break down food for energy, they reach a fork in the road: They can either continue energy production as healthy cells, or shift to the energy production profile of cancer cells. In a ...

Microbiologists contribute to possible new anti-TB treatment path

October 23, 2017
As part of the long effort to improve treatment of tuberculosis (TB), microbiologists led by Yasu Morita at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report that they have for the first time characterized a protein involved ...

Big Data shows how cancer interacts with its surroundings

October 23, 2017
By combining data from sources that at first seemed to be incompatible, UC San Francisco researchers have identified a molecular signature in tissue adjacent to tumors in eight of the most common cancers that suggests they ...

Symptom burden may increase hospital length of stay, readmission risk in advanced cancer

October 23, 2017
Hospitalized patients with advanced cancer who report more intense and numerous physical and psychological symptoms appear to be at risk for longer hospital stays and unplanned hospital readmissions. The report from a Massachusetts ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.