Small molecule makes brain cancer cells collapse and die

A new study suggests that certain small molecules may help kill the damaged cells that cause glioblastomas, highly malignant brain tumors.

Dr. Rodney D. McComb/Wikimedia Commons

Damaged cells that cause the most aggressive type of brain cancer collapse and die when exposed to the molecule Vacquinol-1.

The molecule makes the glioblastoma tumor cells draw in material from outside its walls into bags called vacoules. Bringing in a lot of these bags causes the cells’ outer walls to collapse, which kills the cells. In mice with this type of brain tumor, Vacquinol-1 forced the collapse of only the tumor cells. Brain cells, neurons and other types of cancer cells did not respond similarly to the molecule and the treated mice lived longer, researchers report March 20 in Cell.

If further research shows it is safe, treatment with Vacquinol-1 and other small molecules that cause the same cell reaction may provide an alternative anticancer therapy, the scientists suggest.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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