Researchers have pinpointed two key molecules that generate the growth of an aggressive type of adult brain malignancy.
The findings shed light on the particular mechanisms that underpin brain cancer progression and could ultimately reveal targets for the development of much-needed therapies, researchers state.
Scientists conducted lab tests on tumour cellular material from patients with glioblastoma, a rare but aggressive kind of brain cancer.
Previous studies have found that will glioblastoma cells share similarities with normal brain originate cells, which give rise to the many different cell types within the brain during development.
The team discovered two molecules that are produced at high levels by the cellular material — called FOXG1 and SOX2.
Comparable levels of these molecules are found in brain stem tissue and are a defining feature of these cells.
The researchers found that SOX2 drives glioblastoma tissue to keep dividing, a hallmark of cancer.
FOXG1 stops the cells from responding to other signals that will usually point them towards becoming specialised, the group found.
Both FOXG1 and SOX2 function by controlling when key target genes are started up and off by the cell.
The experts analysed which genes were affected and identified various factors that are involved in controlling cell division.
The insights could open the door to new remedies that stop or slow tumour growth, the experts say.
Glioblastoma is a fast-growing type of human brain tumour. There are few options for treatment and only one within five patients will survive more than one year after medical diagnosis.
The study was led by scientists in the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine on the University of Edinburgh. The research is published in Genes and Development and has been funded by Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Believe in.
Lead researcher Dr Steve Pollard, CRUK Senior Cancer Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Brain cancer cells seem to be hijacking important cellular machinery that is used by normal brain stem cells. The particular tactic they appear to use is to produce high amounts of these key regulators. This locks the tumour cellular material into perpetual cycles of growth and stops all of them listening to the signals that normally control cell expertise. ”
Dr Á ine McCarthy, Malignancy Research UK’s Senior Science Information Officer, said: “While survival for many types of cancer have improved dramatically, dealing with brain tumours remains a challenge and we urgently need to create new, kinder treatments.
“This research offers an exciting new insight into how two specific molecules may play a key role in driving the growth associated with glioblastoma tumours, the most common type of brain tumour. The next step is going to be for scientists to see if they can develop a way to stop glioblastoma cells from using these molecules as a way to survive and then to check it in clinical trials to see whether this impacts tumour growth in people. ”
Materials provided by University of Edinburgh . Note: Content may be edited for design and length.