A review of papers for brain cancer that has spread from the lungs (known as secondary cancer or metastases) has led to hopes that already licensed drugs could be used to treat the condition. Researchers at the University of Bristol have published the results of their findings in Neuro-Oncology Advances.
The researchers also discovered that there were genetic differences between smokers and non-smokers. Any type of cancer can spread to the brain, but the most common causes of brain metastases are lung cancer and breast cancer. As the cancerous cells grow in the brain to form a tumour, it can put pressure on the surrounding brain tissue.
Common signs of brain metastasis include headache, changes in personality, numbness or tingling, confusion, memory loss and seizures. Anyone with suspected symptoms is advised to consult an oncologist as soon as possible. Treatments typically include neurosurgery, radiotherapy, stereotactic surgery, chemotherapy, or a combination of all these approaches.
There is no cure for metastatic brain cancer and sadly most patients die within one year of diagnosis. The research team led by Bristol University wanted to discover more about how lung cancers behave once they reach the brain, which is currently an under researched area.
They studied records of genetic mutations from 72 research papers on the topic of brain metastasis and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). From this they were able to identify five of the most commonly mutated genes. They also looked at data regarding smoking history, genomic data, and demographics.
The studies suggested that in cases where the most commonly mutated genes were present, the cancer could be treated with drugs that were already approved and licensed by regulatory agencies.
Kathreena Kurian, Professor of Neuropathology and Honorary Consultant at North Bristol NHS Trust, Head of the Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Bristol and co-author of the paper, said:
“Our research recommends that all patients should have their brain metastasis examined for mutations in addition to their primary lung cancer because they may be different. This evidence could form the backbone for new clinical trials for patients with brain metastasis in non-small cell lung cancer using drugs that are already available.”
About 25,000 patients in the UK suffer from cancer that has spread from the brain. The research was partly funded by Cancer Research UK, who support ongoing work to understand more about how secondary cancer develops and why a treatment might stop working.
A diagnosis of secondary brain cancer can be a stressful and distressing experience for both patients and their families. Everyone’s reactions are unique, but it is normal to experience emotions such as anger, sadness, loss, fear, and anxiety.
Some people prefer to turn to close family members and friends for support, while others may reach out to counselling services, mental health charities, or local organisations such as religious groups or support groups.
For more information about brain tumour treatment, please contact Mr Andrew McAvoy of Amethyst Radiotherapy.