Gene behind brain cancer discovered
Scientists claim to have discovered the genetic cause behind the most common and aggressive form of primary brain cancer.
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have found that Glioblastomas, the lethal brain tumours, are caused by the fusion of two adjacent genes, and drugs that target the protein produced by this aberration can dramatically slow it’s growth.
“Our findings are doubly important,” said study leader Antonio Iavarone, professor of pathology and neurology at CUMC, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
“This is a very exciting advance in our understanding of cancer, and perhaps a first step toward a personalised, precision approach to the treatment of glioblastoma,” said Stephen G Emerson, director of the HICCC .
Glioblastomas are tumours that arise from astrocytes, star-shaped cells that make up the brain’s supportive tissue.
Since astrocytes reproduce quickly and are supported by a large network of blood vessels, glioblastomas are usually highly malignant. It is estimated that these tumours affect about 10,000 people in the United States each year.
Glioblastoma is typically treated with surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. However, the disease is invariably fatal, with a median survival of about 14 months after diagnosis, even with aggressive therapy.
Iavarone and his colleagues suspected that glioblastomas might be addicted to proteins produced by gene fusions. Such fusions have been implicated in other cancers, notably chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).