Brain Tumors Might Require Personalized Treatment
Cancers arise when a normal cell acquires a mutation in a gene that regulates cellular growth or survival. But the particular cell this mutation happens inthe cell of origincan have an enormous impact on the behavior of the tumor, and on the strategies used to treat it
Robert Wechsler-Reya, Ph.D., professor and director of the Tumor Development Program in Sanford-Burnham’s NCI-designated Cancer Center, and his team study medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain cancer in children.
A few years ago, they made an important discovery:
medulloblastoma can originate from one of two cell types:
1) stem cells, which make all cell types in the brain or
2) neuronal progenitor cells, which only make neurons.
Stem cells and progenitor cells are regulated by different growth factors. So, Wechsler-Reya thought, maybe the tumors arising from these cells respond differently to different therapies…
In a study published recently in the journal Oncogene, he and his team show that this is indeed the case. They looked at one growth factor in particularbasic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)and found that while it induces stem cell growth, it also inhibits neuronal progenitor cell growth.
The researchers also discovered that bFGF can block
the growth of tumors that originate from progenitors.
When they treated a mouse model of medulloblastoma
with bFGF, it dramatically inhibited tumor growth.
Although bFGF itself can’t be used as a drug (it would cause too many off-target effects), this study suggests that molecules like it might be used to treat medulloblastomabut only for tumors that have the appropriate origins.
“Medulloblastomas are not all alike, and the same is true for cancers of the breast, prostate and other tissues. It’s critical for us to figure out how tumors differ from one another, so we can find ways to personalize cancer diagnosis and come up with treatments that are more effective and less harmful,” Wechsler-Reya says.
This study was funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (Leadership Award LA1-01747), the U.S. National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Mental Health grant MH67916), and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation of the U.S.
Emmenegger BA, Hwang EI, Moore C, Markant SL, Brun SN, Dutton JW, Read TA, Fogarty MP, Singh AR, Durden DL, Yang C, McKeehan WL, & Wechsler-Reya RJ (2012). Distinct roles for fibroblast growth factor signaling in cerebellar development and medulloblastoma. Oncogene PMID: 23045271
Original article: http://beaker.sanfordburnham.org/2012/11/brain-cancer-origins-personalized-medicine/