Clearer targets for brain tumor-busting drugs may emerge from new ‘toolkit’

German researchers have developed a way to combine MRI with ultramicroscopy to study the growth of blood vessels in glioma mouse models, and in exacting detail. Their new “toolkit” may aid future efforts to target particular vessels in brain tumors for glioblastoma therapies.

In research conducted at the University of Heidelberg, scientists and physicians used the imaging combo for both in vivo and ex vivo looks, according to a news release from the publisher of the British journal eLife.

In the MRI segment, which they based on T2*-weighted images, the team performed pre- and post-contrast scans to define the growth of vessels during glioma development in two different glioma models.

The team additionally mapped vessel development using dual-color ultramicroscopy of whole, cleared brains.

Using fluorescent labeling of microvessels, they collected and compared complementary 3D MR and ultramicroscopy data sets.

Tapping the toolkit to assess the effects of existing growth-factor treatments or radiation therapy on the vessel compartment within the glioma models, they further found that such treatments are insufficient to halt tumor growth in mice.

This mirrors current human studies, the release points out.

Michael Breckwoldt, a physician-scientist and one of the lead authors of the paper, which is slated for an upcoming edition of eLife, points out that many previous therapies have aimed at starving tumors but with mixed results.

“Improved imaging techniques that faithfully show the vessel architecture, including their growth, structure and density, and the effects of treatments in a non-invasive way,” he says, “are therefore needed to inform the development of future clinical trials.”

Co-lead author Julia Bode of the German Cancer Research Centre adds that the new toolkit “provides a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of existing treatment and could help identify novel targets for future drug development.”