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In Brain Cancer, Unique Genetic and Epigenetic Profile Means Better Odds

By Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Science Cafe | December 16, 2010

Brain cancers are deadly more often than not, but UCSF researchers have determined that a particular genetic signature is associated with longer survival.

The discovery, reported online December 15 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, may lead to a better understanding of how certain cancers can arise and lead to better therapies for some of the deadliest brain cancers, for which there is no curative treatment.

Brain cancers cause 13,000 deaths in the US each year. A majority are advanced, grade-IV glioblastomas at the time of diagnosis. Even with surgery and radiation or chemotherapy, less than one in 20 individuals with a glioblastoma diagnosis remains alive after five years. Half die within one year.

Yet across all grades of brain tumors, including glioblastomas, the presence of an abnormally altered version of a gene called IDH is associated with improved survival, the UCSF researchers report.

The research was led by John Wiencke, PhD, and Margaret Wrensch, PhD, both professors in the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF and members of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, along with Karl Kelsey, MD, of Brown University. Their research group analyzed clinical data and brain tumor samples from the UCSF Brain Tumor Research Center's Tissue Bank. The study included samples from 131 patients who had been treated by UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery physicians.

Read more at Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Science Cafe