Public Release: 

Researchers find leukemia and lymphoma drug may benefit glioblastoma patients

New findings led by Cleveland Clinic published in Science Translational Medicine

Cleveland Clinic

May 30, 2018, Cleveland: New Cleveland Clinic research shows for the first time that ibrutinib, an FDA-approved drug for lymphoma and leukemia, may also help treat the most common - and deadliest - type of brain tumor. The findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, offer hope that the drug may one day be used in patients with glioblastoma and improve poor survival rates.

The team of researchers, led by Shideng Bao, Ph.D., of Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute found that ibrutinib slowed brain tumor growth in a preclinical model and extended survival more than 10-times the rate of the current standard-of-care chemotherapy drug.

They found in human glioblastoma cells that ibrutinib works by inhibiting glioma stem cells - an aggressive type of brain cancer cell that tends to resist treatment and spread. Furthermore, they showed that combining ibrutinib with radiation therapy prevents glioblastoma cells from developing this resistance. Combination therapy overcame resistance and extended lifespan more effectively than either radiation or ibrutinib treatment alone.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, glioblastoma survival is very poor - median survival in patients undergoing standard treatment is less than 15 months.

"Glioblastoma is the most lethal primary brain tumor and is highly resistant to current therapies," said Bao. "There is an urgent need to get new treatments to these patients as quickly as possible."

In earlier studies, Bao and colleagues found that glioma stem cells have high levels of a protein called BMX (bone marrow and X-linked non-receptor tyrosine kinase). BMX activates a protein called STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3), which is responsible for the aggressive, pro-cancer qualities of glioma stem cells. In this new study, the researchers found that ibrutinib works by inhibiting both proteins.

"Additional research is important to understand the effects of ibrutinib in patients, but these early findings are promising," said Bao. "Using an FDA-approved drug would allow us to surpass many of the lengthy regulatory studies needed when developing a new treatment, and we could potentially begin clinical trials very soon."

Ibrutinib (Imbruvica) has been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to treat certain types of leukemia and lymphoma, as well as chronic graft versus host disease.

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Bao is a staff member in Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute's Department of Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine. The research team included first author Yu Shi.

This research was supported by grants from National Key Research and Development Program of China and the National Institutes of Health.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation's best hospitals in its annual "America's Best Hospitals" survey. Among Cleveland Clinic's 52,000 employees are more than 3,600 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 14,000 nurses, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic's health system includes a 165-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 11 regional hospitals, more than 150 northern Ohio outpatient locations - including 18 full-service family health centers and three health and wellness centers - and locations in Weston, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2017, there were 7.6 million outpatient visits, 229,000 hospital admissions and 207,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic's health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/ClevelandClinic. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.

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About the Lerner Research Institute

The Lerner Research Institute is home to Cleveland Clinic's laboratory, translational and clinical research. Its mission is to promote human health by investigating in the laboratory and the clinic the causes of disease and discovering novel approaches to prevention and treatments; to train the next generation of biomedical researchers; and to foster productive collaborations with those providing clinical care. Lerner researchers publish more than 1,500 articles in peer-reviewed biomedical journals each year. Lerner's total annual research expenditure was $260 million in 2016 (with $140 million in competitive federal funding, placing Lerner in the top five research institutes in the nation in federal grant funding). Approximately 1,500 people (including approximately 200 principal investigators, 240 research fellows, and about 150 graduate students) in 12 departments work in research programs focusing on heart and vascular, cancer, brain, eye, metabolic, musculoskeletal, inflammatory and fibrotic diseases. The Lerner has more than 700,000 square feet of lab, office and scientific core services space. Lerner faculty oversee the curriculum and teach students enrolled in the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM) of Case Western Reserve University - training the next generation of physician-scientists. Institute faculty also participate in multiple doctoral programs, including the Molecular Medicine PhD Program, which integrates traditional graduate training with an emphasis on human diseases. The Lerner is a significant source of commercial property, generating 64 invention disclosures, 15 licenses, 121 patents, and one new spinoff company in 2016. Visit us at http://www.lerner.ccf.org. Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/CCLRI.

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