Illuminating the brain tumour microenvironment: gaining new insights into gliomas through intravital imaging and molecular MRI
Brain tumours represent some of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The brain is our most critical organ, controlling every aspect of who we are as humans, and therefore brain tumours are also amongst the most feared of all cancers. Eighty percent of tumours that develop within the brain are gliomas, with over half being glioblastoma, the most malignant form of this disease. Unfortunately, despite treatment with standard of care therapy (surgery, radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy), glioblastomas are essentially incurable, and the 5-year survival rate for patients with the most aggressive gliomas remains <5%. This dismal clinical outcome underscores the urgent need for novel perspectives and effective therapeutic strategies to treat patients with this disease. We have been tackling this challenge in my lab for several years, and have taken the strategy of deeply exploring the brain tumour microenvironment (TME) as a means to exploit the knowledge we gain to develop new therapies. Since cancers and their TME are highly dynamic and co-evolve during tumour progression and in response to treatment, it is necessary to study cancer as it develops - in real time and in situ, in all its complexity. Therefore, my lab has now developed a strategy using the unique power of intravital microscopy (IVM) and molecular MRI to literally ‘look inside’ the brain of living animals in a longitudinal manner; a first in the cancer field.