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Experimental anti-cancer drug made from corn lillies kills brain tumor stem cells

Public release date: 30-Aug-2007

A drug that shuts down a critical cell-signaling pathway in the most common and aggressive type of adult brain cancer successfully kills cancer stem cells thought to fuel tumor growth and help cancers evade drug and radiation therapy, a Johns Hopkins study shows.

In a series of laboratory and animal experiments, Johns Hopkins scientists blocked the signaling system, known as Hedgehog, with an experimental compound called cyclopamine to explore the blockade’s effect on cancer stem cells that populate glioblastoma multiforme. Cyclopamine has long been known to inhibit Hedgehog signaling.

They reported their findings in the journal Stem Cells published online on July 19.

“Our study lends evidence to the idea that the lack of effective therapies for glioblastoma may be due to the survival of a rare population of cancer stem cells that appear immune to conventional radiation and chemotherapy,” says Charles G. Eberhart, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, ophthalmology and oncology, who led the work.

“Hedgehog inhibition kills these cancer stem cells and prevents cancer from growing and may thus develop into the first stem cell-directed therapy for glioblastoma.”

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