WebMD Medical News
Brunilda Nazario, MD
Dec. 28, 2009 -- Two newly discovered genes may act as master control
switches in the progression of the most aggressive form of brain cancer,
Researchers say the two genes are active in about 60% of all glioblastoma
patients and identifying these genes could help identify those with this type
of aggressive brain tumor.
Glioblastoma is among the most lethal types of brain cancer because it
rapidly spreads throughout the brain and creates inoperable brain tumors.
Senator Edward Kennedy died of glioblastoma only 16 months after he was
diagnosed with the disease.
"We now know that two genes -- C/EPB and Stat3 -- are the disease's master
'control knobs,'" researcher Antonio Iavarone, MD, associate professor of
neurology in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia
University Medical Center, says in a news release. "When simultaneously
activated, they work together to turn on hundreds of other genes that transform
brain cells into highly aggressive, migratory cells."
Researchers say that until now, they had no idea what made glioblastomas so
aggressive and deadly.
In the study, published in Nature, researchers found all brain cancer
patients whose tumors showed activation of these two genes died within 140
weeks after diagnosis, compared with half of the patients without this genetic
Further experiments showed that blocking these two genes in human
glioblastoma cells prevented them from forming tumors when injected into
"The finding means that suppressing both genes simultaneously, using a
combination of drugs, may be a powerful therapeutic approach for these
patients, for whom no satisfactory treatment exists," researcher Andrea
Califano, PhD, director of the Columbia Initiative in Systems Biology,
says in the news release.
SOURCES:Carro, M. Nature, Dec. 23, 2009 advance online publication.News release, Nature Journals.News release, Columbia University Medical Center.
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