Potential new drug targets for an aggressive type of brain tumour have been uncovered in the lab, thanks to a ‘reverse engineering’ approach using DNA editing. Scientists from the University of Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children, and the University of Calgary switched off genes, one by one, in specialised cancer stems cells using the DNA editing tool CRISPR. The stem cells came from patients with an aggressive type of brain tumour, called glioblastoma. This early stage research, published in the journal Cell Reports, uncovered multiple weak spots in the lab-grown cells that could be used in the future as potential targets for drug development. Dr Daniel Tennant, cancer biology expert from the University of Birmingham, said glioma stem cells are rare, aggressive brain tumour cells that could help the disease to return or become resistant to treatment. “Targeting these stem cells is difficult, as they share a number of characteristics with other important stem cells in the brain,” he said. Identifying potential drug targets specific to these stem cells could focus research into targeted treatments that might limit damage to healthy cells in the brain.
Source: Cancer Research UK