In a paper published in Genes & Development, investigators identified the protein WRD5 as a promising way to turn off cancer “stemness” at a molecular level, clearing the way for treatment like chemotherapy to kill glioblastoma cells. Cancer stem cells, like regular stem cells, can inherently repair damaged DNA and divide into different cell types. Regular stem cells repopulate healthy tissue, but cancer stem cells repair tumors after cancer treatment.
Justin Lathia, PhD, Co-Leader of Case CCC's Molecular Oncology Program, Shaun Stauffer, PhD, Developmental Therapeutics Program Member, and Chris Hubert, Molecular Oncology Program Member, combined to contribute to the research.
“A drug targeting WRD5 would disrupt cancer stem cells’ epigenetic state—meaning the cells wouldn’t be able to grow or multiply in the way that helps them resist treatment,” said Lathia. "We’re getting closer to the ‘holy grail’ of glioblastoma treatment being able to navigate this response and then attack tumors without damaging any healthy cells in the brain,” he added.