One of the deadliest cancers, Glioblastoma multiforme, could have a new treatment thanks to scientists from the Salk Institute. The scientists have found a way to target the tumor cells of this deadly cancer, which typically leads to patient death within 15 months, and use the growth to benefit cancer treatment.

"This is a disease for which there has been practically no improvement in treatment outcome for years," Inder Verma, senior author of the paper, said in a press release. "It is clear that even if a surgeon removes 99.99 percent of a glioblastoma multiforme tumor, what is left behind will come back and grow into more tumor."

The team focused on a transcription factor called nuclear factor kB (NF-kB), which it found was the primary driver of the proliferation of cancer cells in those with glioblastoma multiforme, and found that inhibiting NF-kB slowed down its growth and increased survival rates.

"Our experiments confirmed that NF-kB is required for the cancer cell to proliferate," said Dinorah Friedmann-Morvinski, first author of the paper. "But now we have finally found a way to ameliorate the tumor to increase lifespan."

Although the results are promising, the team's genetic experimentation examining the role of NF-kB in glioblastoma multiforme only focused on mice - as of now, the treatments developed in the study are not yet feasible on humans.

"So we asked how could we manipulate the system using pharmacology rather than genetics," Verma said.

The scientists fed mice a peptide called NBD, which is known to block NF-kB growth when it is activated by the immune system. The results showed that mice treated with NBD had a doubled survival time compared to the control group that did not receive NBD. However, due to NBD's toxicity to the liver, the team hopes to find another similar, safer treatment that could be applied to humans.

"The ultimate goal is to block NF-kB, but because it turns on many genes-at least 100-our aim became finding the handful of genes that directly affect tumor growth," Verma said. "Then we can be more selective in treatment."

The findings were published in the Jan. 8 issue of Science Advances.