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

September 25, 2012, Medical University of Vienna
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

New approach attacks 'undruggable' cancers from the outside in

January 23, 2018
Cancer researchers have made great strides in developing targeted therapies that treat the specific genetic mutations underlying a patient's cancer. However, many of the most common cancer-causing genes are so central to ...

Study: Cells of three advanced cancers die with drug-like compounds that reverse chemo failure

January 23, 2018
Researchers at Southern Methodist University have discovered three drug-like compounds that successfully reverse chemotherapy failure in three of the most commonly aggressive cancers—ovarian, prostate and breast.

'Hijacker' drives cancer in some patients with high-risk neuroblastoma

January 23, 2018
Researchers have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and have used a new approach to show how the cancer genome "hijacks" DNA that regulates other genes. The resulting insights ...

Enzyme inhibitor combined with chemotherapy delays glioblastoma growth

January 23, 2018
In animal experiments, a human-derived glioblastoma significantly regressed when treated with the combination of an experimental enzyme inhibitor and the standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug, temozolomide.

Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018
A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light ...

Boosting cancer therapy with cross-dressed immune cells

January 22, 2018
Researchers at EPFL have created artificial molecules that can help the immune system to recognize and attack cancer tumors. The study is published in Nature Methods.

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.