Slowing Tumor Growth


Leading doctors and scientists worldwide are constantly fighting the ongoing battle against cancer, hoping to discover a breakthrough that will help millions dealing with a cancer diagnosis. A brain tumor is a growth of abnormal cells that multiply uncontrollably in the brain or near the brain to form a mass. To learn more about brain tumors, check out this blog

A common approach to treating tumors is actively striving to slow down tumor growth in order to provide a better quality of life for the patient. Neuropathologist Giselle Lopez, MD, Ph.D., at Duke’s Brain Tumor Center, is working to slow down the growth of a lesser-known brain tumor called oligodendroglioma. Keep reading to learn more about Giselle’s groundbreaking research and the importance of slowing tumor growth in the brain. 

The Effects Of Tumor Growth 

Slowing brain tumor growth is important because brain tumors can cause a variety of serious health problems. As they continue to grow, they can begin to compress against important structures in the brain, leading to neurological symptoms and severe dysfunctions in the body. Slowing tumor growth can help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life, prolonging survival in some cases. Here are the most common side effects that can be produced by a continuously growing brain tumor: 

  • Further damage to parts of the brain 
  • Headaches 
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems 
  • Hearing problems 
  • Difficulty with speech 
  • Difficulty with movement 
  • Cognitive changes 
  • Increased pressure within the skull ( can lead to nausea and vomiting )
  • Hormonal changes ( particularly in tumors affecting the pituitary gland) 

Oligodendroglioma Brain Tumor Growth 

Giselle Lopez, MD, Ph.D., has been studying how to slow down oligodendroglioma brain tumors in the hopes that her work will make a difference not only in the lives of those affected by the rare brain tumor but also offer scientists a better understanding of how brain tumors behave.

Oligodendroglioma brain tumors are more commonly found in adults and make up only 10 to 15 percent of gliomas. This type of tumor forms from oligodendrocytes, the cells in the brain and spinal cord that produce a substance to protect nerve cells. López is particularly interested in studying the hypercellular nodules present in these tumors. Typically, with gliomas, there are more tumor cells within the center of the brain tumor, and there are fewer tumor cells as they move farther out from the center. 

The hypercellular nodules in oligodendrogliomas behave differently. The cancer cells in tumors with these nodules are randomly concentrated in spots further away from the tumor center. Compared to most round oligodendroglioma cells, the tumor cells in these nodules are irregularly shaped. In many cases, the nodules divide much faster than the surrounding tissue. López, an assistant professor in the Departments of Pathology and Neurosurgery, aims to find out why.

Oligodendroglioma Research 

Lopez is working with Simon Gregory, Ph.D., at the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute to use new technology to understand better what is causing the nodules to grow faster and gain insight into how to slow them down. The technology, spatial transcriptomics, will allow López and Gregory to determine if tumor cells within the nodules send signals that make the cells grow faster.

The use of spatial transcriptomics will help them discover whether pathways are activated within the nodules. “If we can figure out what those signals are,” López says, “maybe we can specifically try to shut those signals off." “We can use this technology to ask in very deep detail complex questions about what genes are being turned on or turned off in these nodules compared to the adjacent tissue,” she adds. 

“The technology has not existed to ask that question before because those nodules are small. This technology provides us a way of looking at this tumor in a way that we haven’t been able to before.” She hopes to identify new targeted pathways to slow down oligodendroglioma growth, which could lead to new drug treatments and possibly a cure.

Lopez’s work on oligodendrogliomas could also give neuropathologists better guidance on whether hypercellular nodules are significant for prognosis. Some neuropathologists believe tumors with these nodules will behave more aggressively and grow back quickly. Therefore, they recommend that doctors follow these patients more closely, but other neuropathologists disagree.

 “We’re being inconsistent,” Lopez says of neuropathologists and pathologists. “We need to ensure we’re not worrying people for no reason and that we’re not giving unnecessary treatments.” López hopes her work will give pathologists and researchers the necessary answers. “Oligodendrogliomas don’t get as much attention in the brain tumor world as glioblastomas, but people are getting these tumors,” she says.

 “People are dying of these tumors, and anything we can do to find new ways to treat them and give them longer lives and a better quality of life—that work is needed." "I'm hopeful that my studies will help push the field forward to help patients.”

Treatments To Slow Brain Tumor Growth 

There are a few treatment options available that can help slow tumor growth and alleviate symptoms. Here is a list of the most common treatments used to slow tumor growth: 

  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be used to remove parts of the tumor to help reduce the pressure on the brain and slow growth. However, surgery is not always possible depending on the location. 
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and slow the growth of the tumor. This treatment may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or as a standalone treatment for tumors that cannot be removed with surgery.
  • Chemo Therapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This treatment may be used in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation therapy to slow the growth of the tumor and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.
  •  Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy involves the use of drugs that are designed to specifically target cancer cells. This treatment may be used for certain types of brain tumors that have specific genetic mutations.
  • Clinical Trials: There are a variety of clinical trials underway that are exploring new treatments for brain tumors. These trials may involve new drugs, new combinations of existing treatments, or new approaches to radiation therapy.

The Best Brain Cancer Center

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center can help. It’s important to work with healthcare professionals you trust when determining the best course of treatment for individual brain tumor cancer cases. With so many brain tumor types, treatments will depend on various factors such as size, location, tumor type, and the patient's overall health and individual preferences.

Our team of world-renowned doctors includes some of the best Neuro-Oncologists, Neuropsychologists, Neurosurgeons, Neuropathologists, Neuro-Oncology Nurses, and Nurse practitioners in the field. We Provide more cutting-edge research, attend to more brain tumor patients, have the most experience with different types of brain tumors, and provide more innovative treatments than most if not all other centers worldwide. 

Passionately committed to our research, providing exceptional patient care, and finding a cure, Duke strives to bring hope and empowerment to anyone facing a brain tumor diagnosis.  

Head on over to our website to book a consultation today, or visit our clinic in Durham, North Carolina.