New tool gives deeper understanding of glioblastoma

October 22, 2018, Cornell University
Glioblastoma (histology slide). Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Researchers in the lab of Charles Danko at the Baker Institute for Animal Health have developed a new tool to study genetic "switches" active in glioblastoma tumors that drive growth of the cancer. In a new paper in Nature Genetics, they identified key switches in different types of tumors, including switches linked to how long a patient survives.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive cancer that forms in the brain or spinal cord. "It's a devastating disease, and there are no good treatment options," said lead author Tinyi Chu, a graduate fellow in Danko's lab. Even when undergo treatment, most survive just 15 months post-diagnosis.

In the new study, Danko's group partnered with colleagues at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University to analyze 20 samples from its tissue bank.

"A lot of diseases, including cancer, fundamentally are defects in how our are used, not necessarily in the genes themselves," said Danko, assistant professor of biomedical sciences. Genes make up only two percent of our genome. Switches called transcription factors bind to the genome to turn those genes on and off, which trigger the cellular changes that cause disease.

To analyze the tumors, the researchers used a technique called ChRO-seq that creates a map of which switches are active and which genes they turn on. Co-author Hojoong Kwak, Cornell assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics, initially invented ChRO-Seq as a graduate student at Cornell University, and collaborated with Danko's group to develop the new application.

Using ChRO-seq data, the team was able to classify the glioblastomas into subtypes, based on which particular switches were active in the different tumors compared to healthy brain tissues. They also identified three switches that will be tested in larger studies to determine their ability to predict which patients will survive longer with the disease, including two switches whose connections were previously unknown.

Chu is now analyzing an even larger group of glioblastomas to link patient survival and treatment outcomes with the active switches in each . He hopes the results could inform personalized treatment plans for patients or help to develop new therapies in the future.

The new technique studies not only cancer, but many other diseases caused by malfunctions in gene regulation, such as certain types of heart or autoimmune diseases. "ChRO-seq gives you a lot of information about what is turning on a tumor or a diseased cell," said Danko. "It gives you a starting point to think about how you can shut that switch off."

Explore further: Optimizing technologies for discovering cancer cell mutations

More information: Tinyi Chu et al, Chromatin run-on and sequencing maps the transcriptional regulatory landscape of glioblastoma multiforme, Nature Genetics (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0244-3

Related Stories

Optimizing technologies for discovering cancer cell mutations

September 10, 2018
Cancer cells often have mutations in their DNA that can give scientists clues about how the cancer started or which treatment may be most effective. Finding these mutations can be difficult, but a new method may offer more ...

A breakthrough for understanding glioblastoma—origin cells for deadly brain tumors identified

August 2, 2018
A new study by KAIST researchers identified where the mutation causing glioblastoma starts. According to the study, neural stem cells away from the tumor mass are the cells of origin that contain mutation drivers for glioblastoma, ...

A maestro that conducts the invasiveness of glioblastoma tumors

June 14, 2018
Glioblastoma is the most severe form of brain cancer in adults. The aggressiveness of this cancer is largely due to its ability to invade surrounding brain tissue, making the tumor difficult to remove by surgery. Now, a research ...

Cancer-preventing protein finds its own way in our DNA

June 16, 2016
Geneticists from KU Leuven, Belgium, have shown that tumour protein TP53 knows exactly where to bind to our DNA to prevent cancer. Once bound to this specific DNA sequence, the protein can activate the right genes to repair ...

Recommended for you

Progress in genetic testing of embryos stokes fears of designer babies

November 16, 2018
Recent announcements by two biotechnology companies have stoked fears that designer babies could soon be an option for those who can afford to pick and choose which features they want for their offspring. The companies, MyOme ...

From the ashes of a failed pain drug, a new therapeutic path emerges

November 16, 2018
In 2013, renowned Boston Children's Hospital pain researcher Clifford Woolf, MB, BCh, Ph.D., and chemist Kai Johnsson, Ph.D., his fellow co-founder at Quartet Medicine, believed they held the key to non-narcotic pain relief. ...

Gene editing possible for kidney disease

November 16, 2018
For the first time scientists have identified how to halt kidney disease in a life-limiting genetic condition, which may pave the way for personalised treatment in the future.

Repurposing FDA-approved drugs can help fight back breast cancer

November 16, 2018
Screening Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved compounds for their ability to stop cancer growth in the lab led to the finding that the drug flunarizine can slow down the growth of triple-negative breast cancer in ...

Traditional chemotherapy superior to new alternative for oropharyngeal cancers

November 16, 2018
A drug increasingly used in combination with radiotherapy to treat a type of cancer that forms in the tonsils or the base of the tongue is inferior to a previously favored option, according to a large, clinical trial led ...

New 'SLICE' tool can massively expand immune system's cancer-fighting repertoire

November 15, 2018
Immunotherapy can cure some cancers that until fairly recently were considered fatal. In addition to developing drugs that boost the immune system's cancer-fighting abilities, scientists are becoming expert at manipulating ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.