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Broad Institute, MGH researchers chart cellular complexity of brain tumors
Date:6/12/2014

ealed that each glioblastoma tumor contains individual cells from multiple cancer sub-types, and that the distribution of these cells varies from tumor to tumor.

The study also found that the cancer cells in these tumors exist in many states. Some are stem-cell-like, suggesting they have the capacity to self-renew and may play a role in tumor regeneration even after therapy. Others are the more mature, differentiated cancer cells that make up the bulk of the tumor. But the researchers also found that many cells exist on a spectrum between these states. Existing treatments, which only target the most prevalent cells in the tumor, may miss some of these sub-populations.

"To focus on the aspects of heterogeneity that we thought could be clinically relevant, we looked primarily for distinct cell states, and found multiple sub-populations in each tumor. Clinically, what this means is that we might need to treat each tumor based on the complement of cellular sub-types it contains not just the most prevalent one," said co-senior author Aviv Regev. Regev is a Broad Institute core member and director of the Broad's Klarman Cell Observatory, as well as an associate professor at MIT and an Early Career Scientist with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The researchers hope that these findings will help guide future investigations and approaches to treatment for glioblastoma, which is the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer in adults.

"This is an incurable disease. There are existing therapies that may target 99 percent of the cells, but the tumors always come back. Understanding the cellular landscape can provide a blueprint for identifying new therapies that target each of the various sub-populations of cancer cells, and ultimately for tailoring such therapies to individual patient tumors," said co-senior author Bradley Bernstein. Bernstein is a senior associate member of the Broad and professor of pathology at Massachu
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Contact: Haley Bridger
hbridger@broadinstitute.org
617-714-7968
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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