Emory Report
February 23, 2009
Volume 61, Number 21



Emory Report homepage  

February 23
, 2009
Tool to shrink brain tumors’ blood supply

By Quinn Eastman

When scientists are looking for ways to block brain tumors’ growth, tools the brain uses itself are ideal. That’s the rationale behind Emory researchers’ work with vasculostatin, a fragment of a naturally occurring protein in the brain.

Vasculostatin can prevent tumors implanted in the brains of rats from expanding their blood vessels, according to results published Feb. 1 in Cancer Research.

“This is a proof of principle, showing that vasculostatin can act as a potent blocker of new blood vessel formation and tumor growth,” says brain cancer specialist Erwin Van Meir.

First author Balveen Kaur, now assistant professor of neurosurgery at Ohio State University, discovered vasculostatin while working in Van Meir’s laboratory.

She showed that vasculostatin could push back against the “worst of the worst”: brain tumor cells with an extra gene driving the formation of new blood vessels. Tumors require their own blood vessels to grow past a certain size.

Vasculostatin is a fragment of a protein called brain angiogenesis inhibitor 1 (BAI1), first identified in 1997 at the University of Tokyo.

BAI1 is normally stuck on the surfaces of cells such as astrocytes in the brain, but vasculostatin can diffuse to neighboring cells. Van Meir and his colleagues are now investigating what makes vasculostatin break off from the rest of BAI1.

To administer vasculostatin to people with brain cancer, a small piece of the protein probably would be introduced intravenously or injected into the brain, Van Meir said. More research is necessary to figure out which piece and how.