The Yale Cancer Center has recently published a paper that outlines the cause of a serious form of brain tumor.
Yale researchers, in partnership with the researchers in Germany and Gilead Sciences, have identified the factors that can stimulate the conversion of a premalignant tumor called gliomas to the malignant form of the tumor called Glioblastoma. The team has also discovered a therapy that can help in controlling this lethal form of brain cancer. The paper was published in the Nature Genetics on November 30, 2015.
“The study involved an unbiased research about how the premalignant gliomas turned malignant. The study has also identified a potential therapeutic approach for the management of Glioblastoma,” said the doctoral student, Hanwen Bai.
The study involved a group of 41 patients with premalignant tumors that were transformed into the malignant forms within ten years. The genetic make-up of premalignant and malignant tumors was compared to understand the cause of malignancy.
During the research, four primary aspects were studied: large DNA fragment abnormality, gene mutation, epigenetic changes and gene expression. The research was also aimed at finding the influence of the external factors on the gene expression, particularly how DNA methylation of the pre-malignant cells affected their progression and conversion into the malignant form.
The research revealed that the four aspects contribute to causing the premalignant cells to become malignant, individually as well as synergistically. The research has identified an anticancer drug called BET inhibitor as a potential treatment for this cancer.
Though there were several studies conducted in the past to analyze the cause of cancerous changes in gliomas; this was the first attempt that yielded successful results.
According to Bai, the researchers’ work was built upon the results of the previous studies. “The previous studies involved research on the premalignant and malignant tumors from different patients. The comparison was made between the malignant cells of one patient with the premalignant cells from another patient,” Bai said. “As a result, the studies were non-conclusive as different patients have different epigenetic and genetic backgrounds.”
The Yale study avoided this mistake by analyzing forty-one sets of tumors with each set having the premalignant and malignant cells from the same patient.
The new study was successful at improving the range and depth of analysis as compared to the past studies.
Alexander Vortmeyer, the director of the neuropathology program at the Yale School of Medicine, has expressed that this advancement is important because of the life-threatening nature of Glioblastoma.
Glioblastoma is a tumor arising from the supportive tissue of the brain called astrocytes. These tumors are highly malignant because of the ability of the cells to reproduce quickly though they don’t spread outside of the brain.
The most common symptoms include a headache, memory or speech difficulties, visual changes vomiting, and drowsiness.
Glioblastoma is a rare disease compared to the other forms of cancer like breast cancer and colon cancer. However, the current options for treating this condition do not offer much in the way of an extended lifespan.
“This study will be highly beneficial in the field of research for the brain tumor,” Vortmeyer said. “By identifying a potential therapeutic approach in the form of BET inhibition, there is now a viable strategy to find a cure.”
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