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Genome analysis of brain tumors showing the way to new treatment strategies
Date:7/26/2012

mors. At the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), researchers collaborating with Bayer Healthcare are currently working to develop an agent which specifically inhibits the growth of cells with more than two sets of chromosomes.

About one third of individual mutations in medulloblastoma are found in genes that play a part in what are called epigenetic modifications. "This finding shows once more that drugs influencing such modifications will become increasingly important in cancer treatment," says Professor Dr. Stefan Pfister, a pediatrician and molecular biologist. DKFZ and Heidelberg University Hospital are already testing such promising substances to treat specific pediatric tumors.

The total number of genomic alterations in medulloblastoma increases with the age of patients. "Although many scientists have supposed that there is such a correlation, it has never been documented before," Stefan Pfister explains. "We suspect, however, that the foundation for medulloblastoma is laid already during embryonic development."

For the first time, the PedBrain researchers have also found what are called fusion genes in medulloblastoma. Such genes are formed when, due to genetic accidents, cancer-promoting genes are fused together and new proteins occur as a result. Such fusion genes cause a number of cancers such as chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). For this cancer, researchers have succeeded in developing a very effective drug against the BCR-ABL fusion gene, which is highly specific for leukemia cells.

"Along with a multitude of individually occurring mutations, we were able to define a number of typical groups of mutations, which will show us the way to new strategies of fighting medulloblastoma", says Peter Lichter to sum up. "Given the genetic complexity and heterogeneity of this tumor type, a useful future approach would be to analyze the tumor genome in each affected child in order to identify the most promising treatment." '/>"/>

Contact: Dr. Sibylle Kohlstdt
s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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