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The researcher is recognized for advanced research on brain cancer

illustration of the brain. – pixabay

  • Glioblastomas are the most aggressive and common brain tumors in adults.
  • Since 2005, treatment has remained unchanged and the median survival rate is 14 months.
  • An CNRS researcher is developing an unprecedented approach in Marseille aimed at targeting the tumor and its microenvironment through small synthetic molecules. Explanations.

His research project on the most aggressive brain tumors has attracted the attention of the ARC Foundation. For two years, Aureli Focandjan, a researcher at CNNS in
Marseille will be able to benefit from a team of up to 50,000 euros to research a new path to glioblastoma treatment. these
Brain tumors affect nearly 2,700 new people each year in France. "The therapeutic challenge is great, they are cells that cannot be treated," says the researcher, who devoted his thesis to cancer stem cells.

Despite this brain cancer, the "standard" protocol has remained unchanged since 2005. It consists, where possible, in surgical procedure, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. "From that date, despite all the knowledge about these tumors, we have not been able to find better treatment," notes Aureli Tohandzijan. The pathways have been well tested by international teams, such as blocking the vessels of these highly vascularized tumors, capable of creating their own vessels to grow so much "that they need to eat," the researcher says. But this approach has proved fruitful for patient survival, on average, 14 months, despite improvements in patients' quality of life on a daily basis.

The Arka Foundation supports Aureli Chocandjani's research project on glioblastoma.
The Arka Foundation supports Aureli Chocandjani's research project on glioblastoma. – ARC Foundation

New approach

Of what, Aureli Focandjan formulates another hypothesis, which he hopes will eventually lead to a clinical trial. "The idea is to try to use molecules that can act on the tumor and on its environment." "I'm interested in small synthetic molecules derived from a protein called SMAC, capable of restarting the process of cancer cell death," she continued. They are known to be good candidates for targeting cerebral vasculature. "

Thanks to initial tests, she was able to detect a reduction in tumor size and restore the so-called normal vascular network, meaning she was not dense or tumultuous. In addition, it found abundant recruitment of peripheral immune cells, brain tissue. And the researcher wonders: "Are these cells good or bad for the tumor? Do they contribute to tumor regression, or are they involved in establishing treatment resistance? ".

Supported 30 projects in 2018 in Paca

"This project is innovative in that it is trying to target the tumor cells but also the microenvironment cells," continues Francois Dupre, executive director of the ARC Foundation. This kind of approach has never been tested. "If the researcher is among the lucky ones of the year – in 2018, the foundation has supported 30 projects in the Paka region for a total of 2.1m euros – it is also for 'strong explanatory capacity' of his project.

In fact, it is enough to hear Aureli Tocogan's clear and chosen words to understand the risks of her research conducted at the Aks-Marseille Institute of Neurophysiology. And understand that if these well-known "SMACs" have a positive effect on the tumor, they alone will not be enough to fight this cancer: "These are very complex tumors that have genetic factors, too." We can only treat them with a molecule. We will need to team up with one another and find out who. The first test results are expected for next summer.

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