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Tiny sacs released by brain tumor cells carry information that may guide treatment
Date:11/16/2008

Microvesicles tiny membrane-covered sacs released from glioblastoma cells contain molecules that may provide data that can guide treatment of the deadly brain tumor. In their report in the December 2008 Nature Cell Biology, which is receiving early online release, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers describe finding tumor-associated RNA and proteins in membrane microvesicles called exosomes in blood samples from glioblastoma patients. Detailed analysis of exosome contents identified factors that could facilitate a tumor's growth through delivery of genetic information or proteins, or signify its vulnerability to particular medications.

"Glioblastomas release exosomes in sufficient quantities to pass the blood-brain barrier. We were able to isolate them, analyze the RNA transcripts and show how they might be used as biomarkers to guide targeted therapy and monitor treatment response," says Johan Skog, PhD, the study's lead author, who works in the laboratory of Xandra Breakefield, PhD, at the MGH Neuroscience Center. "Exosomes also may someday be used to deliver therapeutic molecules to the site of a tumor," he added.

Many types of cells release exosomes as part of normal cell-to-cell communication, and several types of tumors are known to shed exosomes containing proteins that can alter the cellular environment to favor tumor growth. The current investigation is believed to be the first to carefully analyze the contents of exosomes shed from glioblastoma cells and characterize their contents.

The investigators first analyzed tumor cells from three glioblastomas and verified that the cells released exosomes containing RNA and protein molecules. Some messenger RNAs related to activities such as cell proliferation and migration, angiogenesis, and immune response were highly abundant in the exosomes. When glioblastoma exosomes were cultured with normal cells, tumor RNA was delivered into the normal cells a
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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