Gliomas exploit immune cells of the brain for rapid expansion

Suspect brain scanGliomas are among the most common and most malignant brain tumors. These tumors infiltrate normal brain tissue and grow very rapidly. As a result, surgery can never completely remove the tumor. Now, the neurosurgeons Dr. Darko S. Markovic (Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch) and Dr. Michael Synowitz (Charité) as well as Dr. Rainer Glass and Professor Helmut Kettenmann (both Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch), have been able to show that glioma cells exploit microglia, the immune cells of the brain, for their expansion (PNAS Early Edition)*.

Microglial cells are the immune cells of the brain/central nervous system. They constantly screen the brain environment. On their surface they use sensors to detect changes in their environment due to brain damage or infections. An important family of these sensors are Toll-like receptors (TLR).

However, microglia do not attack glioma cells. On the contrary: they support the growth of the tumor and, thus, make the disease worse. Together with researchers in Warsaw, Poland, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Bethesda, USA, the researchers in Berlin have been able to show how the immune cells promote the tumor growth. 

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