Metastasis is one of the main challenges, if not the main one, in the treatment of cancer. In fact, metastases are responsible for about 90% of all cancer deaths, and, among these, brain metastases are noteworthy. Doctors estimate that between 10% and 40% of primary tumors end up spreading to the brain, which significantly compromises the patient’s chances of survival. Now, Spanish researchers are optimistic that they found an effective drug against brain metastases which inhibits the activity of STAT3 gene, involved in brain tumors occurrences.
A study conducted by researchers at the Nationa Oncology Center in Madrid, Spain, shows that the drug “silibinin” is capable of reducing brain metastases without causing any side effects.
The research team, led by Emilio Valiente, has been studying the microenvironment of brain tumors for years. A work that has focused primarily on astrocytes, a type of glial cell associated with metastasis that responds to lesions by entering a reactive state, and on the gene STAT3, involved in brain metastases.
The findings of the new study show that the STAT3 gene is too active in a subpopulation of reactive astrocytes that are key to creating the prometastatic environment.
Inhibiting STAT3 gene’s functions prevent the formation of brain metastases
The Spanish researchers used lab mice to which they administered a multitude of drugs to find one capable of inhibiting the activation of the STAT3 gene.
This research has led to the identification of “silibinin,” whose antitumor potential has already been established a couple of years ago.
“Silibinin” was able to eliminate brain metastases in lung cancer patients in 2016 but just now, thanks to this new study, the scientists were able to observe how the substance works
Excited by the positive results “silibinin” had in lab mice, the study’s author tested the drug on 18 people with lung cancer and brain metastases.
75% of the patients responded positively to the substance, while in three cases a total response was observed and the brain metastases were wholly eradicated.
Also, the average survival period of only four months in the control group increased to 15.5 months.
Accordingly, the researchers who found that “silibinin” is successful in inhibiting the STAT3 gene’s activity and reducing brain metastases are now waiting for financing to develop a drug for commercialization.