A protein that could play a key role in treating brain cancer has been detected by medical researchers in Queensland.
While it is important for brain development, the scientists found levels of the protein were low among many people with aggressive brain cancer.
The research conducted by scientists at the University of Queensland and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane suggests the protein could be used to diagnose and treat some forms of the deadly brain cancer known as glioblastoma.
This cancer is diagnosed in about 800 Australians each year with an average survival time of 14 months after detection.
Professor Linda Richards from the Queensland Brain Institute said the protein is responsible for stopping the reproduction of cells in the brain once it has fully developed.
“What we understand about this protein is that it’s very important for brain development,” Professor Richards said.
“When we reintroduced this protein into human brain tumours and put them into mice, we found that the tumours failed to grow.
“Another thing that we found in the study was that the level of this protein could be used for diagnostic purposes to identify which tumours might respond best to certain treatments.
“This research clearly shows that there are different types of this form of brain cancer, some of which would respond to increasing the levels of this protein and other types of brain tumours which would not respond.”
Professor Richards said they were trying to get this knowledge into clinical practice as fast as possible.
Further research will also explore if the same protein is linked to other types of cancer.
“This protein is also found in other tissues in the body, and we’ve found that in other types of cancers, like lung and breast cancer, that the level of this protein is also altered,” she said.