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Cellular origin of deadly brain cancer is identified
Date:7/7/2011

EUGENE, Ore. -- (July 7, 2011) -- Using a mouse genetic system co-developed by researchers at the University of Oregon and Stanford University, a research team led by UO biologist Hui Zong has isolated the cellular origin for malignant glioma, a deadly human brain cancer.

The discovery that oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) are the point of origin is reported online July 7 ahead of regular print publication in the July 22 issue of the journal Cell. These OPCs, the researchers said, were the first cells to display "significant overexpansion and aberrant growth."

Malignant glioma is diagnosed in 10,000 Americans annually, with most patients dying within two years. Victims have included U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (2009), pianist George Gershwin (1937), marine biologist Thor Heyerdahl (2002) and film critic Gene Siskel (1999).

"The cure for this devastating disease lies in our ability to unequivocally identify the cell-of-origin for gliomagenesis, which would then allow researchers and doctors to harness the intrinsic properties of such cell types to thwart the attack," said Zong, a member of the UO Institute of Molecular Biology.

Zong, also a fan of the UO's football Ducks, likened the search for tumor-igniting cells to setting up a defense designed to stop a quarterback's distribution of the ball to a receiver or running back. "To study cancer, you have to understand the route of attack," he said. "With conventional research methods, we saw a snapshot when the ball goes to the quarterback, and then suddenly we see the touchdown: Cancer, six points. That is obviously not enough for us to understand cancer's attacking strategies."

The technique Zong and his team used -- Mosaic Analysis with Double Markers (MADM), developed for studying developmental biology and modeling diseases in mice -- was first described by Zong, co-author Liqun Luo of Stanford University and other colleagues in a paper in Cell in 2005, w
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Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uoregon.edu
541-346-3481
University of Oregon
Source:Eurekalert  

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