Glioblastoma and medulloblastoma are the most common types of brain tumors in adults and children, respectively. Glioblastoma is characterized by spreading through the normal tissue in the brain and high resistance to therapies. It remains among the most difficult cancers to treat and so far there is no cure for glioblastoma. Medulloblastoma in its advanced form also can spread through the spine and this is very difficult to cure.
Standard of care for both types of tumors includes radiation therapy. However, the effectiveness of radio-therapy in these brain tumors is severely limited by radio-resistance in glioblastoma and marked side effects in medulloblastoma. Therefore, therapies that limit the spreading of the tumor and improve on the efficacy of radiation are strongly needed.
Dr. Ruggieri has identified a protein, named MRK, which is activated by radiation and contributes to resistance to radiotherapy. This protein is also important for the spreading of tumor cells into normal tissue. In collaboration with Dr. Marc Symons and Dr. Yousef Al-Abed, she is developing an inhibitor of MRK that could provide novel treatments for these types of tumors. The combination of an MRK inhibitor with radiotherapy is expected to be more effective than radiation alone and to reduce the side-effects of radiotherapy, improving the patients’ quality of life.