Study: 7 key genes predict brain cancer survival

Jul 14, 2009 By CARLA K. JOHNSON , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- Scientists have found seven key genes in the type of brain tumor affecting Sen. Edward Kennedy that together can predict how aggressive a patient's cancer will be.

The findings, appearing in Wednesday's , may eventually lead to tests that predict patient survival and drugs that target the culprit .

While hundreds of gene mutations may contribute to brain cancers, the researchers decided to search for the problem genes at the center of the interplay driving a tumor's growth.

The study's lead author likened those genes to organized crime bosses.

"You want to find the strategy to knock down the Mafia," said Dr. Markus Bredel of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, who led the research. "So you probably want to get the big bosses."

The researchers looked at the gene profiles of brain tumor samples from more than 500 cancer patients. Most of the patients had high-grade gliomas and some had glioblastomas, the deadliest type of believed to be afflicting Kennedy, who disclosed his illness in May of last year.

The researchers examined the interactions among genes. They found 11 "hub" genes and dozens of "hub-interacting" genes intricately connected to one another by biological functions.

The status of seven of those genes predicted the patients' survival when the researchers looked at glioblastoma samples from The Cancer Genome Atlas project, a government-funded effort that's building on the mapping of the human genome.

A risk prediction could be calculated for a patient from a sample of tumor, Bredel said, adding that the science of estimating risk isn't exact.

The new work adds to other recent research identifying genes and gene pathways important to glioblastomas, said Dr. Boris Pasche of University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal.

The new model helps explain which damaged genes are important and which are mere bystanders, he said.

"I am quite optimistic that if we find the Achilles heel of this tumor, and there may be more than one, and if we can target them, we may see significant improvement in survival," Pasche said.

---

On the Net:

JAMA: http://www.jama.ama-assn.org

The Genome Atlas: http://cancergenome.nih.gov

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Parsing the genome of a deadly brain tumor

Sep 06, 2008

The most comprehensive to-date genomic analysis of a cancer – the deadly brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme – shows previously unrecognized changes in genes and provides an overall view of the missteps in the pathways ...

Colon cancer link to obesity uncovered

Sep 30, 2008

A new study reveals the first-ever genetic link between obesity and colon cancer risk, a finding that could lead to greater accuracy in testing for the disease, said a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham ...

Recommended for you

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
1 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2009
If we knew more about the "consistancy" of a "gene"
we could make our own "genes" to "reprogram" cells
to behave as we wished! (It's a joke son. Relax!)

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.