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San Antonio Cancer Researcher Taking New Approach With Old Drug In Treating Glioblastoma

Updated Sept. 26.

During the Biden Cancer Summit this month, former Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, described the brain tumor that killed their son Beau Biden.

"It weakens your body. It takes your speech — even your memories,” she said. “It's persistent."

And, she said, it does its damage quickly.

“The average survival time after diagnosis is 14 months,” she said.

Beau Biden had glioblastoma, as did Senator John McCain. Currently, there's not much that doctors can do for patients with glioblastoma.

But now, a researcher in San Antonio is trying to figure out if tweaking a medicine already used to treat the symptoms of glioblastoma could prolong lives.

Andrew Brenner at the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center has modified the drug Avastin, and is researching the effect.

The drug could possibly slow the growth of the cancer cells, adding precious days or months to the lives of someone with glioblastoma, Brenner said.

"The goal is to improve survival, to increase longevity for patients with glioblastoma by adding a very specific targeted molecule to inhibit metabolism in the cancer cell," Brenner said.

Brenner said while researchers are always looking for new ways to treat and cure diseases, they've also got their eyes open for new ways to use old medicines.

"We're always trying to take an out-of-the-box approach. We're not just trying to think, 'What's a drug and what can we do to get it to this tumor and kill it?' So we're trying to think a little bit ahead and more three-dimensionally in terms of what's happening in the brain with those tumor cells and how they're adapting," Brenner said. "So if we can find their Achilles heel, that's what we're looking for."

Brenner's study should be done in about six months.

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at bonnie@tpr.org or on Twitter @kbonniepetrie

NOTE: The name of the cancer center has been updated. It is UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center.