Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive types of brain tumour, and survival is still poor despite the progress that’s been made in other types of cancer over recent years. These tumours lie deep inside the skull, where it’s difficult to reach with surgery or target with drugs. And even if surgeons can get in there, they find that it’s hard to tell where the cancer stops and where healthy brain tissue begins. Thanks to a new fluorescent dye that specifically highlights cancer cells (shown in pink on the right), surgeons can precisely trim out the tumour while sparing the rest. Using this ‘light up’ technique to take accurate tumour samples, scientists have found that glioblastomas are complex mosaics made up of clumps of different cells, each with a distinct genetic fingerprint. This helps to explain why they’re so difficult to treat, and could lead to better therapies in the future.
Written by Kat Arney