Side effects from the standard of care for the treatment of brain cancer may lead to recurrence of deadly tumors, according to researchers from Boston College.

According to the press release announcing the findings, the standard of care for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme has not changed markedly since it was established 50 years ago.

In the writings published in the journal Lancet Oncology (9 2010 Jul 13. [Epub ahead of print]), the authors explained that the effects of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy produce a range of biochemical responses in the brain that can fuel tumor cell survival at the same time doctors are attempting to eradicate the disease. “All tumors, regardless of where they are located, require two major fuels for survival: glucose and glutamine,” said Thomas Seyfried, professor of biology at Boston College and a specialist in lipid biochemistry. “As long as tumor cells have access to these energy molecules, they will survive. If you give them a lot of these molecules, they will survive even better.”

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According the Professor Seyfried, past studies have shown that the processes of radiation and chemotherapy can serve to increase the supply of glucose and glutamine, leading to conditions favorable to tumor cell survival and growth. In addition, infection-fighting tumor-associated macrophages and monocytes (TAMs) that flood the brain in an effort to fight tumor cells can indirectly support tumor growth through the release of agents that lead to inflammation and the growth of blood vessels.

“What develops then is an escalating situation in biological chaos, where the intrinsic properties of TAMs to heal wounds increase the capacity of brain tumor cells to proliferate, invade, and self-renew,” wrote Professor Seyfriend and his co-authors. “High glucose concentrations together with unrestricted glutamine availability will provide the energy necessary to drive this escalating situation.”