How can understanding mitochondria help scientists predict metastatic brain tumours?
Studies carried out at our Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth have been focusing on better comprehending potential changes in the mitochondria in cancer cells and how best we can use this information to ultimately develop new therapies.
Mitochondria are responsible for the provision of energy within cells. Cancer cells, including brain tumour cells, have a greater energy requirement as they are constantly growing and dividing. Previous studies have suggested that the mitochondria in tumour cells may be more efficient than those in non-cancer cells.
So, new therapies which would dampen down the energy that is produced within the cell could therefore slow down, or halt, the growth of a tumour. In order to develop these, we need to understand any potential changes that occur within the mitochondria in cancer cells. Being able to determine how active they are would help scientists predict whether tumour cells are more likely to grow or spread and hence prevent some metastatic tumours.
Biomarkers are potential tools which may provide an indication of whether somebody has a tumour, what stage it is at or whether it is more likely to respond to specific therapies. Ideally, these could be assessed as part of a blood test. Members of our research centre in Portsmouth have been combining their knowledge on mitochondria to answer a question. Is it possible to measure mitochondrial DNA in the blood and, if so, could this tell us which cells are more likely to form secondary brain tumours? If so, we may be able to prevent the circulating tumour cells from entering the brain as well as identifying people with a greater likelihood of developing secondary tumours.
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