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Cancer Foundation supports study of brain tumour resistance to chemotherapy

Luxembourg’s Cancer Foundation (Fondation Cancer) finances a new research project of the NorLux Neuro-Oncology Laboratory at LIH’s Department of Oncology. This project aims to study a new chemotherapy resistance mechanism in glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain tumour.

A cheque with the sum of 420,059 Euro was handed to project leader Dr Sabrina Fritah on 27th April 2016 by Dr Carlo Bock and Lucienne Thommes, respective President and Director of the Fondation Cancer, in the presence of Dr Gregor Baertz, president of LIH’s Board of Administration.

The standard treatment of glioblastoma is a tumour resection followed by radiation and chemotherapy. In theory, cancer cells treated with chemotherapy die by accumulation of damages, but some glioblastoma cells possess or rapidly put in place coping mechanisms to overcome these effects. They then become resistant to treatment, which leads to tumour relapses.

The research project of the NorLux Neuro-Oncology Laboratory is based on preliminary work of the research unit, which identified the involvement of long non-coding ribonucleic acids (lncRNAs) in the response of glioblastoma to drug treatment. The technological advances of the past decade on nucleic acid sequencing have revealed that the major part of the genome, previously considered as silent, is actually expressed as lncRNAs. The function of these molecules is not very well studied yet but gets growing interest from the research community. LncRNAs appear to play a powerful role in numerous cellular processes and act even at very low concentrations.

Dr Fritah seeks to identify the biological function of two key lncRNAs in the brain. For this, she and the NorLux team members will block or stimulate the expression of lncRNAs, and measure the effect of this modulation on cancer cell growth. The role of these lncRNAs will be determined using high-throughput sequencing techniques followed by bioinformatics analyses. Finally, the researchers will test the effectiveness of a combination treatment of lncRNAs and chemotherapy against glioblastoma, in an established rodent model. A long term goal of this innovative project is to develop therapeutic approaches based on lncRNAs for patients with brain tumors.