Genetic Two for Two

Oligodendrogliomas cancer genetic mutations discovered

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For years, scientists have tried to identify the genes involved in the development of oligodendrogliomas - the second most common form of brain cancer. They've finally done it.

A team of scientists from Duke University Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University have found the genetic mutations (changes) that cause a type of malignant brain cancer. This discovery could lead to targeted therapy for oligodendrogliomas.

"Targeted therapy for brain cancer may be around the corner."

One of the study's corresponding authors, Hai Yan, M.D., Ph.D., Duke associate professor of pathology, said that finding the specific genes was next to impossible until technology advanced. And it has.

Whole genome sequencing technology looks at all the genes that make up a sample. No gene is left out. The team used this technology and spotted a gene on chromosome 19 that had mutations in six out of the seven tumor samples tested.

Corresponding author, Nickolas Papadopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, says when genes are mutated on most of the samples, that's usually an indication that the mutation is involved in tumor development.

In addition to this gene, another mutated gene was located on chromosome 1. Both genes were known as tumor suppressor genes, which function to protect a cell from one step involved in the development of cancer.

The team examined a total of 34 oligodendrogliomas and found the mutations on the identified genes in all of them.

Finding two new genes that play a role in oligodendroglioma increases the odds that a combination therapy can be developed to target those genes. Yan believes that therapy might be cocktail-type drug, similar to ones used to treat HIV patients.

Since these genes are rarely if ever mutated in other cancers, the genes may serve as biomarkers, helping doctors diagnose the presence of this specific type of brain cancer.

Findings from this study are published in the journal, Science.

According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 22,070 new cases of primary malignant brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors were diagnosed in the United States in 2010.

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Review Date: 
August 4, 2011
Last Updated:
August 7, 2011