Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common malignant brain tumour and has a very poor survival (7-15 months) despite current best treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and irradiation). Glioma stem cells (GSC) are a new concept in glioma research described as representing the ‘life source’ of GBM by providing the tumour with an unlimited capacity to renew. This capacity likely underlines its inevitable recurrence, thereby ensuring its poor prognosis. Preliminary studies in the Royal Melbourne Hospital Department of Surgery Brain Tumour Laboratory have established a number of these human tumour derived GSC lines. These cells have been confirmed to possess the quality of self-renewal/immortality making them an ideal platform to further investigate this form of brain tumour.
These GSC lines will be incorporated into a mouse model with ‘glowing’ GSC which will allow non-invasive realtime assessments of tumour growth and response to treatments in live mice. Early work with one of the GSC lines has confirmed that GSC are able to recapitulate tumours within brains and provide a working in vivo model.
Brain tumour treatments encounter a problem which distinguishes them from other cancers. The brain exists in an insular environment which seals and separates it from the rest of the body. Therefore, by utilising this brain tumour model we will also provide important information about the ability of drugs to be delivered into the brain beyond the blood brain barrier. This model will therefore form the basis of future experiments to test new drugs. This research will also greatly promote our scientific understanding of GSC and their behaviour within an in vivo environment and could form a powerful basis for future clinical cancer drug trials.