Genes Driving Brain Cancer Revealed

This image shows the coding region in a segmen...
This image shows the coding region in a segment of eukaryotic DNA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Researchers at Columbia University (New York City, USA) have identified 18 genes responsible for driving glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), one of the most common (and deadly) forms of brain cancer.

Background: Cancers rely on driver genes to remain cancer. These driver genes are potential targets for therapy. If we can shut the pathway down through this means, the cancer may collapse.

The Research: The investigators from Columbia University (New York City, USA) believe that they have identified the vast majority of drivers for the delay form of brain tumors, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). The team identified 15 driver genes that had already been discovered in other studies, and 18 new driver genes that had never been implicated in glioblastoma.

My take: This creates a list of the most important targets for GBM drug development. And then? Personalized management of brain cancer. About 15% of glioblastomas are driven by genes that can be targeted with drugs available in the USA today. We need clinical trials to enroll these patients. Of course, given tumors are powered by varying driver genes, a complicated analysis is required before personalized treatment can be offered. Imagine if we could isolate the most aggressive cells from a tumor, identify the driver gene responsible for its growth, and test drugs on the isolate cells to find the optimal therapy. Some of these genes are in cancer stem cells, the tumor’s most aggressive cells.

For the 15% of patients whose tumors are driven by certain gene fusions, there are drugs approved for use in the USA. Half of these patients have tumors driven by a fusion between the gene EGFR and several other genes. This makes EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor, a growth factor for some cancers) hyperactive. Other patients have a fusion of the genes FGFR (fibroblast growth factor receptor) and TACC (transforming acidic coiled-coil), first reported in 2012 by the COlumbia University team.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

References: Nature Genetics (05 August 2013)

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