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UT researcher discovers new way to treat brain cancer

A scientist at The University of Toledo has discovered a potential way to stop the spreading of the most lethal brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). 

Dr. Kathryn Eisenmann, an assistant professor in Biochemistry and Cancer Biology at UT, worked with Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) on this research, which was published online Sept. 9 by the American Society of Cell Biology in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell.

Dr. Kathryn Eisenmann

Dr. Kathryn Eisenmann

Eisenmann’s team, led by first author and UT M.D./Ph.D. graduate student Jessica Arden, found that cancer cells that cause GBM can potentially be stopped with a drug developed by VARI Professor Arthur Alberts.

“The most lethal part about GBM is that the cells move so rapidly,” Eisenmann said. “We want to keep the cells in one place so they don’t spread to vital parts of the brain.”

In previous research, Alberts discovered a bioactive peptide called DAD and small molecules called intramimics. Both DAD and intramimics activate a family of proteins called DIAPHs or mDIA, which are known to play vital roles in GBM spread. He had been exploring the use of the drug for colon cancer treatment.

Eisenmann decided to see if his research could be applied to GBM, which is the most common brain tumor in adults. In 2010, there were 22,000 cases in the U.S. People with GBM often live fewer than 15 months following diagnosis because, despite surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, individual cancer cells escape and invade healthy surrounding tissue, making additional treatment attempts increasingly difficult.

Eisenmann was inspired to study treatments for GBM because she has had friends and colleagues diagnosed with or die from the disease.

“It is one of the most lethal cancers and there are very few, if any, effective and durable treatments,” she said. “The prognosis is usually poor.”

The next step, with the help of a $75,000 grant from a UT’s Interdisciplinary Research Initiation Award, is to evaluate the effectiveness of this new strategy in preclinical models, a crucial step in translating this discovery to the clinic and patients.

“GBM is lethal because it so effectively escapes and evades therapy,” Eisenmann said. “Our hope is this discovery will prove to be an anti-tumor strategy and one that will be safe and effective for patients.

“New therapies for GBM are desperately needed,” she said. “We hope our latest finding will lead to a novel and effective treatment for this extremely aggressive cancer.”

For more information on how to support this research, contact Allie Berns, assistant director of Annual Giving, at 419-530-5414 or You can also contribute online at:

Media Coverage
WTOL 11 (Nov. 2, 2015)
WTOL 11 (Nov. 2, 2015)
13 ABC (Nov. 5, 2015)


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