Regina Golan-Gerstl, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, has successfully identified a genetic protein which is involved in the development of the most common and aggressive type of brain cancer found in adults called glioblastoma.
For the 22,000 American citizens who are diagnosed each year with brain cancer, these never before known molecular aspects can provide new diagnosis and treatment options for patients.
Golan-Gerstl and her team of biochemists supported by the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) discovered a splicing factor hnRNP A2/B1, a protein gene found in humans, which was detected to have higher than normal levels found in glioblastoma samples.
A study was conducted on laboratory mice to see what would happen when injected with gliobastoma cells. Shortly after being injected, mice quickly developed large tumors, but when researchers used a biologic technique ("knockdown") to reduce hnRNP A2/B1 before injection, the mice developed only small tumors or no tumors at all.
“These results suggest that hnRNP A2/B1 is a driving oncogene — a gene that causes normal cells to become cancerous — on its own and probably directly contributes to glioblastoma development,” said Rotem Karni, Ph.D., whose laboratory was used in the discovery.
Dr. Karni said that “overexpression and amplification of hnRNP A2/B1 correlate with poor prognosis of glioma patients, whereas deletion of the hnRNP A2/B1 gene correlates with better prognosis than average. Down-regulating hnRNP A2/B1 levels in glioblastoma cells should be considered as a new strategy for glioblastoma therapy,” he said.
These biochemist researchers are continuously trying to identify the genes which are regulated by hnRNP A2/B1. Dr. Karni notes that in a previous study of brain and breast cancer cells with knockdown of hnRNP A2 "we identified key genes of very important pathways involved in cancer development and maintenance," as well as genes that indicate proliferation of cancer or tumor suppression.
Up until now, treatment options have been limited for brain cancer patients, but with the research supplied by the ICRF, the new discovery may give hope to others battling for survival.