Potential Brain Cancer Drug Penetrates the Blood Brain Barrier

September 9, 2005

Although the blood brain barrier (BBB) helps prevent damaging substances from entering the brain, it also keeps helpful drugs out of the brain. Therefore, brain cancer is a difficult disease to treat because most medicines have trouble crossing the BBB to reach cancerous cells in the brain. Researchers may have found a drug that gets past the BBB to fight brain cancer.

Hypothalamic growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) is a substance that controls the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland. Researchers from Saint Louis University, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Tulane University knew that GHRH was found in some cancer cells and that blocking GHRH stopped the growth of some cancers. They had a chemical named "JV-1-36" that blocked GHRH, but they did not know if it crossed the BBB.

To see if JV-1-36 crossed into the brain, the scientists labeled JV-1-36 with a small amount of radioactivity and injected it into mice. The radioactivity allowed the JV-1-36 to be tracked. When the brain tissue was examined, the scientists found that JV-1-36 had crossed into the brain.

This experiment provides hope to many people and their families affected by brain cancer. Cancer-fighting drugs that block GHRH can cross into the brain. However, before this research can be turned into treatment, we must know:

  1. Does JV-1-36 cross the BBB in humans?
  2. What types of cancer can be destroyed by the drug?
  3. Does the drug have any side effects?
  4. How safe is the drug?
  5. What dose of the drug should be used?

Did you know?

  • A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells. Not all tumors are cancerous. A mass of tumor cells that does not grow is called a benign tumor. Benign tumors are not cancer. A mass of tumor cells that grows out of control and can spread to other body areas is called a malignant tumor. Malignant tumors are cancer.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, there were approximately 18,400 new cases and 12,690 deaths caused by brain and other nervous system cancers in 2004 in the United States.
  • Andrew V. Schally, one of the scientists researching JV-1-36, won a share of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

References and more information about brain cancer:

  1. Jaeger, L.B., Banks, W.A., Varga, J.L. and Schally, A.V. Antagonists of growth hormone-releasing hormone cross the blood-brain barrier: A potential applicability to treatment of brain tumors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 102:12495-12500, 2005.
  2. National Cancer Institute
  3. American Cancer Society

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