According to a story from brightsurf.com, a student at Clemson University discovered twenty-two different genes that are associated with the formation of glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive type of brain cancer.
Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer that progresses rapidly, with symptoms including, headaches, changes in personality, stroke-like symptoms, and nausea. The patient may lose consciousness as the cancer worsens. Although the cause is not known is many cases, the research of Leland Dunwoodie, the previously mentioned student, is helping elucidate possible genetic connections to the cancer. Glioblastoma is one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat because the tumors are very resistant to many forms of therapy. In addition, many common treatments could cause damage if conducted on brain tissue; this is exacerbated by the fact that the brain does not have a great ability to repair itself. Many drugs also lack the ability to pass the blood-brain barrier to reach the tumors. These challenges mean that few people survive for very long after diagnosis. Few people survive beyond 15 months, and the five year survival rate is a paltry three to five percent. To learn more about glioblastoma, click here.
The results of Dunwoodie’s study were published in the scientific journal Oncotarget last month. The research required the gathering of a massive swath of data from online databases such as the The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Dunwoodie accessed 2,000 data sets from the site; these sets distinguish the genetic differences between cancerous cells and their normal counterparts. This data was rearranged into a gene expression matrix and compared with another that used data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
The twenty-two genes that were ultimately identified from the data analysis stood out because that were more likely to be expressed together in glioblastoma. This implies that they could play a role in regulating the disease. The genes were found to be most strongly associated with mesenchymal glioblastoma, and patients with high expression generally had worse survival. In a way, this discovery raises more questions than it answers. Future research will have to focus more precisely on how these genes are related to glioblastoma and whether their expression can cause the disease or is a result of its onset.