A new study is giving researchers hope that novel targeted therapies can be developed for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer, after demonstrating for the first time that a gene known as melanoma differentiation associated gene-9/syntenin (mda-9/syntenin) is a driving force behind the disease's aggressive and invasive nature.
Recently published in the journal Neuro-Oncology, the study led by Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM) researchers used cell cultures and animal models to uncover the mechanisms by which mda-9/syntenin causes GBM to grow and invade normal brain tissue. Additionally, by using publicly available cancer genomic database information (bioinformatics) and analyzing tissue samples from patients with GBM, the researchers found that increased levels of mda-9/syntenin correlated with more advanced tumors and shorter survival. The study's discoveries pinpoint molecular targets that could be used to develop new therapies, and also suggest that the gene could be used to help stage and monitor this aggressive disease.
"Our current study represents a major breakthrough in understanding what drives GBM, and it is a starting point for the development of future therapies," says the study's lead author Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and co-leader of the Cancer Molecular Genetics research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center, chairman of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at VCU School of Medicine and director of the VIMM. "Because mda-9/syntenin is expressed more in advanced disease, we are also hopeful that we may be able to use the gene to monitor for disease progression and test whether certain therapies are working."