AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Scientists Build a Better Cancer Drug to Pass Through Blood-brain Barrier

In efforts to develop new treatments for brain cancer, scientists from Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery and the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy report they have altered the structure of an experimental drug that seems to enhance its ability to slip through the mostly impermeable blood-brain barrier. The scientists began with an experimental anti-cancer drug cultivated from bacteria found in Peruvian soil more than 70 years ago. Called 6 diazo-5-oxo L norleucine, or DON, the drug blocks the cellular use of the protein building block glutamine. On its own, DON has shrunk tumors in clinical trials of people with a variety of advanced cancers, but its damage to the gastrointestinal system, a glutton for glutamine, ultimately proved too toxic for humans, say the scientists. “We wonder whether we could make a safer and more tolerable form of DON by enhancing its brain penetration and limiting exposure to the rest of the body and thus, toxicity,” says Barbara Slusher, PhD, professor of neurology, medicine, psychiatry, neuroscience and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University of School Medicine and director of Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery. Click here to read more.

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