Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Malignant Metabolism

A switch in metabolism in childhood brain cancer medulloblastoma cells causes their spread

10 August 2021

Malignant Metabolism

Growing among these healthy neurons (green) are malevolent medulloblastoma cells (red). While medulloblastoma is rare in the general population, it is the most common and most deadly type of brain cancer to affect children. The cancer begins in the back of the brain – a region called the cerebellum – causing symptoms such as headaches, clumsiness and vision problems. But, as the cancer creeps into other parts of the brain, or the spinal cord, so the symptoms vary and worsen. The ability of medulloblastoma to spread, scientists have discovered, depends on the cells switching their metabolic activity to allow the neurotransmitter GABA to be used as an energy source. Worryingly, this metabolic switch also makes the cells more resistant to common chemotherapies. While the findings suggest existing treatments are limited, they will ultimately aid the development of new ones, if a way to prevent or exploit the metabolic switch can be found.

Written by Ruth Williams

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