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Scientists identify four genes associated with brain cancer
  
By Roberta Friedman

Scientists have identified four genes that were more active in certain types of malignant brain tumors and also in adjacent tissue that appeared normal when viewed through the microscope. Using DNA arrays representing some 18,000 genes, the researchers identified more than a hundred genes whose levels of transcription were different in glial tumors and surrounding tissue. The researchers then focused on 11 genes that had at least ten-fold ratios of differential expression, and eventually identified the four—two known and two unknown genes.

The research team from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that one of the genes highly expressed in brain cancer cells codes for oligophrenin-1. This gene is turned on during development in fetal brains. Oligophrenin-1 is part of a cell signal pathway, and was also present in tissue next to the tumor.

Two other genes were expressed only in the tumors, and thus show promise as specific markers of brain cancer, the researchers write in the International Journal of Oncology. One of these genes, designated gene #11 by the researchers, is on chromosome 10. Other researchers have reported that alterations in chromosome 10 may be a potential prognostic indicator in some brain cancers.

The fourth gene codes for collagenase PM5 and could be involved in severing the protein threads that ‘tie’ cells in place. Cancers dissolve the proteins that hold cells together in order to spread.

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Ljubimova, J. et al. Gene expression abnormalities in human glial tumors identified by gene array. Int J Oncol. 18, 287-295 (February 2001).
 

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