Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 1:04pm
By:
Alan Flurry

Fascinating new work from colleagues in the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center. A research team, including faculty from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the College of Engineering and associate professor of physics Qun Zhao:

has found that a compound molecule used for drug delivery of insulin could be used to treat glioblastoma, an aggressive, usually fatal form of brain cancer.

Glioblastoma, also known as GBM, is a fast-growing, web-like tumor that arises from supportive tissue around the brain and resists surgical treatment. Described by some as “sand in grass,” GBM cells are hard to remove and tend to reach out in a tentacle-like fashion through surrounding healthy brain tissue.

According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, more than half of newly diagnosed GBM patients die within the first 15 months. Late U.S. Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy both died from GBM, raising national awareness of the deadly disease.

Surfen, a compound molecule first described in 1938, is a pharmaceutical agent used to optimize insulin delivery. The UGA researchers identified that surfen-treated cells were “blocked” from tumor growth, and the spread of tumor cells in the brain.

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Based on the study’s discovery that surfen had isolated the tumor, the team also analyzed MRI images to gauge the treatment’s effectiveness.

“In the MRI image you can see [the effects of the surfen treatment] pretty drastically, not in terms of killing the GBM but in blocking its prey,” said Qun Zhao, associate professor of physics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and another RBC collaborator on the project. “In the non-treated image, you see rampant invasive growth, compared to the surfen-models where you see a nicely contained and almost circular-shaped tumor.”

Promising findings from a highly collaborative interdisciplinary team. Leveraging expertise is one of the goals of the modern research university and requires significant teamwork in addition to the leading-science and techniques. Congratulations to the team, particularly the students who are part of the experience and learning from it as they work to solve a deadly condition.