SWEDEN – Researchers at Uppsala University have discovered lymph node-like structures close to the tumor in brain cancer patients, where immune cells can be activated to attack the tumor.

In the study now published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers describe their discovery of structures similar to lymph nodes in the brain where T lymphocytes(major components of the adaptive immune system that kill infected host cells) could be activated.

The research was conducted on glioma- bearing mice and showed that the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS), ectopic lymphoid organs that develop in non-lymphoid tissues at sites of chronic inflammation including tumors, can be induced by a type of immunotherapy.

Treatment of the glioma bearing mice with immunostimulatory antibodies called αCD40 induced the formation of TLS that occurred mostly in proximity to tumors.

Glioma is a deadly brain tumor with a dismal prognosis. One reason why brain tumors are very hard to treat is that our immune system, which is designed to detect and destroy foreign cells including cancer cells, cannot easily reach the tumor site due to the barriers that surround the brain.

To fight a developing tumor, killer immune cells such as T lymphocytes must be activated and primed in our lymph nodes, before travelling to the tumor site to effectively kill the cancer cells.

Because of the barriers around the brain, it is a challenging process for T lymphocytes to reach the tumor.

Prior to this discovery, treatment against glioma has always been done based on individual patient conditions and it includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or observation.

Surgery for Gliomas

Surgery is the most common initial treatment for gliomas. A biopsy taken during surgery provides tissue samples to the pathologist, who will then be able to make an accurate diagnosis of the tumor’s composition, which is critical to getting the best treatment.

Surgery can also allow for the removal of tumor tissue to relieve pressure in the brain caused by the tumor. This often needs to be done on an urgent basis.

After surgery, an adjuvant treatment which includes radiation therapy and chemotherapy is done based on the diagnosis of the type of tumor found.

Radiation therapy is performed after surgery for high-grade gliomas. It is also used to treat gliomas in locations where surgery is not safe and for recurrent gliomas.

Chemotherapy, including GLIADEL® wafers and targeted therapy, is recommended for some high-grade gliomas after surgery and radiation therapy.

After treatment

After treatment, brain scans may show brain tissue that looks like glioma. This is often dead tissue or changes in healthy tissue caused by radiation therapy, chemotherapy or both.