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NIH researchers identify key factor that stimulates brain cancer cells to spread
Date:8/18/2009

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have found that the activity of a protein in brain cells helps stimulate the spread of an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). In a move toward therapy, the researchers showed that a small designer protein can block this activity and reduce the spreading of GBM cells grown in the laboratory.

GBM is the most lethal form of brain cancer, with about half of patients expected to die within a year of diagnosis. GBM is named for the fact that the cancerous cells have properties of support cells in the brain called glial cells. Rather than simply growing in a single tumor mass, GBM cells tend to migrate throughout the brain, making it difficult to remove them surgically. As the cells spread and multiply, they also tend to become resistant to radiation and chemotherapy.

"Interventions to control the spreading of glioblastoma multiforme have the potential to slow the clinical course of the disease and improve overall survival rates," says Jane Fountain, Ph.D., a program director at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). NINDS funded the new study through an initiative that encourages research on why brain tumor cells are so highly invasive and how to therapeutically target these cells.

The study's senior author is Susann Brady-Kalnay, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and an expert on the development of the retina. For years, she has studied how cells migrate to their proper places in the developing retina. In particular, she studied how this process is regulated by cell adhesion molecules proteins at a cell's surface that can keep the cell stuck to its surroundings, or help the cell move. She has shown that a cell adhesion molecule called PTPmu is required for retinal cell migration. Investigating the role of PTPmu in GBM dispersal was a logical extension, she says.

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Contact: Daniel Stimson
nindspressteam@ninds.nih.gov
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Source:Eurekalert

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