Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brain Cancer Research

Forbes has an interesting story about the discovery of a gene (called Olig2) that triggers the growth of stem cells during early brain development and is also important to the growth of deadly adult brain tumors. Here is a brief excerpt:

Olig2 "is specific to growth in the brain, and if you are able to target the activity of this gene, you might have something that would specifically work on cells in the brain but not have the adverse side effects in the rest of the body," Rowitch said.

In experiments on mice, his team found that blocking the function of the protein almost completely stopped the gliomas from forming. That means that drugs that targeted Olig2 might kill tumor cells without affecting healthy brain tissue, the researchers say.

...."The charm of Olig2 is that it is confined to the brain," Stiles said. "Although you need Olig2 to develop a brain, and perhaps you need Olig2 to repair certain lesions in the brain, you can go for quite some period of time without Olig2 once the brain has been developed."

Targeting Olig2 as a treatment for brain cancer is still a decade away, Rowitch said. "But I am hoping that this work will lead to an era of targeted therapy for brain cancer."

The article published in Neuron is here.