New research aids understanding of aggressive brain tumours

In collaboration with the Press Association

Research looking at how different genes are turned on and off at different times in cancer cells is providing new insights in our understanding of brain tumours.

High-grade gliomas (HGGs) are the most common brain tumours in adults and are often fast growing and difficult to treat.

A study published in the March issue of Cancer Cell used a technique that compares patterns of gene activity in different tumour samples. The results help explain how HGGs develop, and why some are more aggressive than others.

Scientists from the Brain Tumor Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco and the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas looked at gene activity in seventy-six tumour samples.

They identified several forms of HGG that differed in how quickly they grew and how well they responded to treatment. The team found that two of the many networks of communication within cells, the 'Notch' and 'Akt' signalling pathways, were involved.

Differences in these networks were related to how aggressive a tumour was likely to be.

The results of this research may be used by doctors in the future to predict how aggressive an individual's brain tumour is likely to be.

This could benefit patients as it will enable doctors to give them the most appropriate treatment.

Furthermore, understanding how tumours grow and develop will pave the way for scientists to develop new treatments for this aggressive form of brain cancer.

Find out about gliomas on CancerHelp UK

Read the original paper on the  Cancer Cell website (PDF download)