Brain tumour cells found circulating in blood

August 1, 2014, Cancer Research UK
Credit: Faculty of Medicine NTNU

(Medical Xpress)—German scientists have discovered rogue brain tumour cells in patient blood samples, challenging the idea that this type of cancer doesn't generally spread beyond the brain.

Researchers from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, in Hamburg, found that patients with an aggressive form of tumour known as sometimes have tumour cells circulating in their blood.

The discovery could help doctors improve the way they monitor how the disease progresses, and could have implications for treatment.

Until recently it was believed that glioblastoma is restricted to the brain, as few patients with the disease develop secondary tumours in other parts of the body.

The reason for this lack of spread is unclear, with some experts suggesting that brain cancer cells are unable to pass through the barrier that separates circulating blood from the brain's fluids, known as the blood brain barrier.

But others believe that it could simply be that these particular brain tumour cells are unable to grow in other organs, or that they do not have time to grow before the fatal effects of the primary tumour take hold.

The new study, led by Carolin Müller and published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, looked at from 141 patients with glioblastoma and found that one in five (20.6 per cent) contained circulating tumour cells.

Dr Steve Pollard, a Cancer Research UK glioblastoma expert, who was not involved in the research, commented on the surprisingly high number of patients in which circulating cells were found.

"Fishing for rogue tumour cells in blood samples is an exciting area of research and this new study shows that circulating tumour cells can be found in more people with glioblastoma than previously thought," he said.

In a related article commenting on the new study, Lara Perryman and Dr Janine Erler suggest that the findings could have an impact on the diagnosis and treatment of glioblastoma patients in the future.

And while Cancer Research UK's Dr Pollard agrees, he cautioned that a greater understanding of these errant brain will be needed as glioblastoma is highly genetically diverse.

"This could be helpful in diagnosing the disease, although given how diverse the different cells within a patient can be, research will be needed to work out how these circulating cells relate to the primary cancer," he said.

The German team believe their findings may also explain why some transplant recipients who receive organs from brain tumour have gone on to develop cancer.

This may be critical, says Dr Pollard, as new ways of treating glioblastoma are developed.

"This will be important when new therapies emerge, as improvements in survival rates may offer more time for these rogue to spread around the body and establish new tumours, something that's evident in rare cases of developing following organ donation."

Explore further: Potential brain tumour drug can distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones

More information: Muller, C, et al. (2014). "Hematogenous dissemination of glioblastoma multiforme." Science Translational Medicine, 6 (247), 247-247 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3009095

Perryman, L., & Erler, J. (2014). "Brain Cancer Spreads." Science Translational Medicine, 6 (247), 247-247 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3009920

Related Stories

Potential brain tumour drug can distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones

October 31, 2013
A potential new drug, already in clinical development, can stop brain tumour cells growing while leaving healthy cells alone, according to new research published today (Wednesday) in PLOS ONE.

Immune system to fight brain tumors

May 30, 2013
Research at Lund University in Sweden gives hope that one of the most serious types of brain tumour, glioblastoma multiforme, could be fought by the patients' own immune system. The tumours are difficult to remove with surgery ...

Brain tumor invasion along blood vessels may lead to new cancer treatments

July 8, 2014
Invading glioblastoma cells may hijack cerebral blood vessels during early stages of disease progression and damage the brain's protective barrier, a study in mice indicates. This finding could ultimately lead to new ways ...

Cancer's growth driven by minority of cells within a tumour

July 31, 2014
US cancer researchers have unearthed further evidence that a tumour's growth can be fuelled by just a small minority of its cells.

'Liquid biopsy' offers new way to track lung cancer

June 3, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists have shown how a lung cancer patient's blood sample could be used to monitor and predict their response to treatment – paving the way for personalised medicine for the disease.

Molecular imbalance linked to brain tumour seizures

July 14, 2014
Researchers in France may have discovered why some patients with a type of brain tumour have epileptic seizures.

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 01, 2014
Dr seyfreid argues that cancer is a metabolic disease.
The genes from a cancerous cell can be transplanted into a stem cell and the stem cell will go on to produce a healthy oraganism.
Gene damage is an epi-phenomenon.
Genes do not control the cell, they are RNA templates for protein folding. The environment controls the cells' behaviour.

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.