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Cleaning up glutamate slows deadly brain tumors

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10:06am, November 24, 2003

From New Orleans, at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience

A protein that removes excessive amounts of the amino acid glutamate from around nerve cells may protect a brain from tumors, according to two studies. Researchers could soon test whether drugs that increase production of this glutamate-sweeping protein stop otherwise-fatal cases of brain cancer.

Glutamate is essential to the healthy brain. It's one of the many compounds that nerve cells use to signal each other. Over the past few years, cancer researchers have discovered that many brain tumors, particularly ones called gliomas, secrete massive amounts of the amino acid. The tumors seem to wield glutamate as a machete of sorts, carving out room for growth by using the molecule to stimulate nerve cells until they die (SN: 9/1/01, p. 133: Available to subscribers at Hindering glutamate slows rat brain cancer).

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