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Scientists Find New Gene Clues About Brain Cancers Called Gliomas

Brain Tumors: New Gene Clues New Studies Point to Key Genes in Brain Tumors Called Gliomas WebMD Health News By Miranda Hitti Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD More from WebMD...

July 15, 2009 -- Scientists have identified a network of up to 31 genes linked to brain tumors called gliomas, including one that may be a target for new treatments.

Those discoveries are featured in two new studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the first study, scientists identify up to 31 genes that, when containing certain mutations, set the stage for the development of gliomas.

Those genes aren't necessarily the only genes involved in gliomas, but they appear to be ringleaders, researcher Markus Bredel, MD, PhD, says in a news release.

"These 31 genes are the kingpins in what you could call an organized crime network of genes that enable the tumor to grow with breathtaking speed," says Bredel, who works at the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute at Northwestern University.

People with widespread mutations in those genes had worse survival than people with a lesser extent of mutations.

The second study shows that one particular gene, the ANXA7 gene, may make a good target for future treatments for glioblastomas, which are the most common type of glioma.

Glioblastoma survival appears to be worse in patients who only have one copy of the ANXA7 gene, instead of the usual two copies, according to the study.

The ANXA7 gene acts as a tumor-suppressing gene, and when only one copy of it is present, it may be easier for glioblastomas to grow, note the researchers, who included Ajay Yadav, PhD, of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute, along with Bredel and scientists from other institutions.

The ANXA7 gene findings could have "significant" meaning for future glioblastoma treatments; as more genetic discoveries about cancer are made the findings could "usher in a new era in cancer research," states an editorial published with the studies.

The editorialists included Boris Pasche, MD, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Pasche is also a contributing editor for The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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