A new study has shown that a drug approved for lymphoma and leukaemia may also help treat the most common and lethal type of brain tumour.


The findings, published in the latest journal Science Translational Science, offer hope that the drug called ibrutinib may one day be used in patients with glioblastoma and improve its poor survival rates.

Bao Shigang, an investigator at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, said ibrutinib slowed brain tumour growth in mice and extended survival more than 10 times the rate of the current standard-of-care chemotherapy drug Temozolomide.

Shigang’s team found that ibrutinib could inhibit glioma stem cells, an aggressive type of brain cancer cell that tends to resist treatment and spread.


According to the study, combining ibrutinib with radiation therapy could prevent glioblastoma cells from developing this resistance and extend lifespan more effectively than either radiation or ibrutinib treatment alone.

“Glioblastoma is the most lethal primary brain tumour and is highly resistant to current therapies,” Shigang said.

“There is an urgent need to get new treatments to these patients as quickly as possible.’’


In previous studies, Shigang and his colleagues found that glioma stem cells have high levels of a protein called BMX (bone marrow and X-linked non-receptor tyrosine kinase).

BMX activates a protein called STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3), which is responsible for the aggressive, pro-cancer qualities of glioma stem cells.

In this new study, the researchers found that ibrutinib works by inhibiting both proteins.

“Using an FDA-approved drug would allow us to surpass many of the lengthy regulatory studies needed when developing a new treatment, and we could potentially begin clinical trials very soon.”


Ibrutinib (Imbruvica) has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat certain types of leukaemia and lymphoma, as well as chronic graft versus host disease

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