November 3, 2008

Fusion Gene Linked To Child Brain Tumors

Researchers from Cambridge University have pinpointed a sequence of DNA present in two-thirds of common tumors for the first time.

Each year, 145 children between the ages of 5 and 19 are diagnosed with pilocytic astrocytomas.  Of those diagnosed, nearly 40 cases are untreatable.

Researchers hope the findings can lead to greater knowledge, and treatment of brain tumors.

Professor Peter Collins, lead researcher from Cambridge University, performed genetic scans on 44 pilocytic astrocytoma and discovered a DNA sequence rearranged on a chromosome present in most of the samples.

The rearrangement creates a hybrid gene created from two separate genes.  It is the first time a fusion gene has been linked to a brain tumor.

"If we can diagnose exactly which type of brain tumor a child has as early as possible, the tumor is more likely to be treated successfully," said Collins.

"We also hope the findings will mean it is possible to create therapies in the future that block the activity of the fusion gene and halt the growth of tumor cells."

"Any discovery that adds to our understanding of the pathways that cause these tumors to form is quite exciting news. We think this important finding will be vital in guiding our future research," said Dr Lesley Walker from Cancer Research UK.

Paul Carbury of the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumor Trust, which helped fund the study along with Cancer Research UK, said a major breakthrough had been achieved with the world class research.

Image Courtesy National Institutes of Health


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