ISU Magazine

Volume 41 | Number 1 | Fall/Winter 2010

Red Hill in winter

The columns atop Red Hill in the winter.

Photo by ISU Photographic Services

Fighting Brain Cancer Through Pharmacy

Fall 2010 Issue | By Andrew Gauss

Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer that drew much media attention in 2009 when it took the life of Sen. Edward Kennedy, has been the interest of research in the labs of the Idaho State University College of Pharmacy for about 18 years. Dr. Alok Bhushan, a professor with the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been studying the malignant tumor in an effort to hopefully some day find a cure.

Sen. Edward Kennedy suffered from Glioblastoma.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate

"It is a very devastating disease and there is no cure for it right now," Bhushan said. "In our research, we are aiming to interact with neurosurgeons, and it is very important that we do some work which may help."

Kennedy was diagnosed with the tumor following a seizure in 2008. He underwent surgery to have most of it removed followed by radiation treatments.

Glioblastoma, which accounts for about half of the cases of brain cancer, is very aggressive and patients usually don't survive more than a couple of years, he said.

"When a patient has that disease, they have a tumor in the brain," Bhushan said. "So we remove the tumor, if we can, but then face the problem that these tumors have micro-invasions. The cells infiltrate or spread in the brain and it is difficult to remove them."

Bhushan and his colleagues have found a natural compound found in soy beans that blocks invasion and infiltration of these diseased cells into areas occupied by normal brain tissue.

"We are looking at new agents to block the invasion of these brain tumors into normal tissue," Bhushan said. 'We are trying to attach it to a molecule that will drag the natural agents into the brain of the patients."

Bhushan said that it's difficult to get the genestein into the brain due to the blood-brain barrier. He is researching various ways to overcome this problem. Ultimately, these research efforts will lead to discovery of new and improved treatment for this devastating disease.