Scientists identify brain cancer 'switch'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers at The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the US have found that a gene involved in brain development may also play a role in the growth of types of brain tumours called gliomas.

Their research, published in the journal Neuron, demonstrates that blocking the action of a gene involved in brain development also appears to stop gliomas from forming, at least in animal models.

The gene, known as Olig2, tells the cell how to make a type of protein called a transcription factor ? a protein that switches other genes on or off.

Previous research has previously shown that Olig2 is involved in early brain development by regulating the activity of stem cells.

Stem cells are the basic building blocks of the body and develop from a basic template into all the specialised cells that bodies rely upon.

These results add more weight to previous studies, which have suggested that gliomas are caused by 'faulty' stem cells.

The team also showed that Olig2 prevents the production of a protein called p21, which functions as a 'brake' on cell division, stopping cells from multiplying uncontrolled - one of the hallmarks of cancer.

Designing drugs to block Olig2's function could now be an avenue for future cancer drug development.