Brain cancers, like aggressive glioblastoma, have been difficult to treat. A recent study has given us clues as to why they can continue to grow even with aggressive chemotherapy. It appears that the cancer cells plug into the brain’s neuronal network and receive impulses that stimulate tumor growth. These impulses, which are transmitted via synaptic connections, may also explain how brain tumors spread so quickly.

The good news is that it also may give us a way to hinder growth through blocking this connection.

This discovery that cancer cells, like brain tissue, may be electrically/neurologically active was reported by scientists from Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Cancer Research Center. In a paper (“Glutamatergic synaptic input to glioma cells drives brain tumor progression”) that appeared in Nature, these scientists noted that previous research had already established that glioblastoma cells connect with one another rather like neurons. This finding has been extended in the new research, which argues that tumor cells not only interconnect like neurons, they also interconnect with neurons.

Even more intriguingly, “the interconnections are active. We report a direct communication channel between neurons and glioma cells in different disease models and human tumors: functional bona fide chemical synapses between presynaptic neurons and postsynaptic glioma cells,” the authors of the Nature article wrote. “These neurogliomal synapses show a typical synaptic ultrastructure, are located on tumor microtubes, and produce postsynaptic currents that are mediated by glutamate receptors of the AMPA subtype.

This discovery may be our key: glutamate receptors of the AMPA subtype. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that can effectively be reduced through diet and specific nutrients. Decreasing the available glutamate may help decrease the communication signaling and help reduce cancer growth.

“We were able to show that signal transmission from neurons to tumor cells does, in fact, work like stimulating synapses between the neurons themselves,” noted Thomas Kuner, a corresponding author of the current study and director of the department of functional neuroanatomy at Heidelberg University’s Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology.

The current study also explored the relationship between tumor-neuron signaling and tumor growth: “Glioma-cell-specific genetic perturbation of AMPA receptors reduces calcium-related invasiveness of tumor-microtube-positive tumor cells and glioma growth. Invasion and growth are also reduced by anesthesia and the AMPA receptor antagonist perampanel, respectively.”

Using dietary approaches such as caloric restriction, time-restricted eating, and reducing animal protein consumption may prove beneficial for some tumors. Also consider glutamate reducing nutrients like oxaloacetate (Benagene) and Glutamate Scavenger.

Brain Cancer and Glutamates 1