Investigators will use molecular imaging to determine whether immune “microglial” cells that reside in the brain interact with deadly brain tumor cells, enhancing the tumor cells’ entry into healthy brain tissues.
Deadly brain tumors called “gliomas” invade and destroy healthy brain tissue. The researchers hypothesize that there is a mutually reinforcing interaction between the tumor cells and microglial cells that enhances this deadly process. According to the researchers, glioma cells secrete factors that attract and activate microglia, while microglia in tern secrete substances that stimulate the glioma cells to move out more effectively into surrounding brain tissue.
The researchers will use mutliphoton microscopy to examine the interactive behavior of the immune cells and brain tumor cells for long periods of time, deep within the brain. They predict that the imaging will reveal that the immune microglial cells and the brain tumor cells that are located near one another show greater activity compared to the activity of the two types of cells that are distant from one another. Additionally, the researchers will determine whether inhibiting microglial cells’ actions also curtails the tumor cells’ actions and, conversely, whether inhibiting glioma cell actions curtails the immune cells’ actions.
Significance: If this study demonstrates that immune-brain tumor cell interactions expedite tumor invasion of brain tissue, the findings are expected to stimulate the search for drugs that could inhibit either type of cell’s actions to limit brain tumor spread. This, ultimately, would be expected to improve the effectiveness of surgery to remove the tumor.