Contradicting the popular belief that brain tumour cells mostly need sugars to grow, scientists have now found out that they depend on fats instead.
This new discovery provides a unique view of brain cancer cell biology, which has significant implications for understanding the behaviour of tumours and improve treatments for this condition.
Lead author Elizabeth Stoll said that patients with malignant glioma currently receive a poor prognosis and new interventions are desperately needed to increase the survival and quality of life for patients with the condition.
The study made use of tumour tissue donated by patients undergoing surgery, as well as mouse models of the disease.
In the research, scientists showed that glioma cells grow more slowly if they are treated with a drug, known as etomoxir, which prevents the cells from making energy with fatty acids.
This discovery provides initial evidence for pursuing new therapeutic avenues to target fatty-acid metabolism in the clinical treatment of brain tumours to slow the progression of the disease.
The team highlight that this study does not address whether nutrition or diet influence tumour growth.
The study is published online in the journal Neuro-Oncology.