Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Weizmann Institute of Science researchers examined for the first time the development of the most common type of brain tumor in animal models in order to best simulate the development of glioblastoma cancerous tumor in humans.
The findings of the study, which were published in the journal Cell Reports, showed that there are immune system cells that, despite the fact that their primary function is to attack and kill the cancer cells, actually act as “double agents” that increase and intensify the aggressiveness and threat of the tumor.
Glioblastoma is one of the most deadly types of cancer, with the average life expectancy of patients being about 12 to 15 months from the moment of detection.
The researchers noted that typically, the scientific monitoring of the development of the cancerous tumor in animal models is carried out without an active immune system, in order to enable the absorption and growth of cancer cells in the body. The disadvantage of this commonly-used model lies in the fact that the immune system either does not exist or does not function properly, which prevents researchers from monitoring the interaction between it and the tumor cells.
The study, which was conducted at TAU in Dr. Dinorah Friedmann-Morvinski's laboratory, used a model that examined the development of cancer cells in animal models with functioning immune systems. This allowed the cancer to grow gradually, to the point of the development of a massive tumor, which enabled the close monitoring of its development, and throughout the process, of the interaction between the cancer cells and different immune system cells.
“Neutrophils are the front-line soldiers of the immune system,” said Dr. Friedmann-Morvinski. “When a tumor begins to develop, the neutrophils are among the first to mobilize and attack it in order to eliminate it.”
“We learned that the neutrophils actually change their role. They are mobilized by the tumor itself, and from being anti-cancerous, become pro-cancerous; as a result, they aggravate the damage that the tumor itself creates," Friedmann-Morvinski continued.
The researchers expect the findings to be implemented in future research, deciphering the mechanism of interaction between the immune system and violent cancerous tumors that tragically claim the lives of so many.