UVA researchers find enzyme target for glioblastoma, cancer treatment

For patients with the particularly aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma, there is no cure and even aggressive treatments have little effect. But researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have homed in on a target enzyme that could help minimize the cancer's growth and possibly stop it altogether.

The lipid-modifying enzyme diacylglycerol kinase alpha can inhibit glioblastoma and other cancer cells, such as melanoma, and even kill them in early tests, according to a report from the university. The enzyme acts as a "master switch" that inhibits multiple pathways at once. Earlier treatments would attempt to block one pathway or another, causing the cancer to find others.

Diacylglycerol is essential to the survival of glioblastoma cells, the scientists believe, and regulates cancer cell survival, proliferation and tumor formation. Once inhibited, the cancer cells die.

"This is an exciting new target in cancer," said lead researcher Benjamin W. Purow in a statement. "It seems to have potential not just for brain tumors but for other cancers as well. We think it has activity on its own, but also in combination with other cancer therapies."

It still is not a cure for glioblastoma, the researchers insist, but it could be useful if used along with other therapies.

"I'm hoping we can start doing Phase I trials in people within a couple of years," Purow added. "I think that's a realistic time frame. I'd couch that by saying that's our goal--but we think that's feasible."

- here's the UVA report