Glioblastoma and Brain Cancer

August 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Glioblastoma accounts for over half of all brain tumor cases where the tumor lies in the brain, as well as a fifth of cases in which a tumor exists within the skull. It is the most lethal, and therefore the most common, form of brain tumor in human beings.

Despite this fact, not many understand how Glioblastoma causes brain damage at the molecular level. Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee believe that a better understanding of the problems occurring at the molecular, genetic level might offer an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of carcinogenesis in the case of Glioblastoma, ultimately leading to possible treatments and preventative measures for the cancer.

Research published in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design offers a new way to understand the biological disordering that occurs when the tumor begins to form. The Vanderbilt team, lead by Zhongming Zhao, hypothesizes that the formulation of Glioblastoma may be due to the problems that occur during the protein-making genetic code transcription process. The problems might crop up due to actual changes in the genetic material itself, or alterations to the molecules involved in regulating the transcription process. Therefore in their recent research, the team has tested the possibility that microRNAs (miRNAs) and transcription factors (TFs) might be responsible for regulating the Glioblastoma genes.

Cancer can take many different forms. It is not a single disease but an array of complications. However, there are certain characteristics that allow us to identify the different forms, such as self-sufficiency in growth signals, insensitivity to antigrowth signals, evading programmed cell death, limitless replicative potential of cells, sustained blood-vessel growth, evasion of the immune system, tissue invasion and spreading through the body in metastasis. Understanding these molecular-level processes is crucial to their identification. This insight is now possible due to the creation of large catalogues of genomic and biochemical information related to the different types of cancer.

The Vanderbilt team researched three whole databases – miR2Disease, HMDD and PhenomiR – to find regulatory networks specific to Glioblastoma. To do this they combined data on Glioblastoma-related miRNAs, TFs and genes. They used TargetScan to search these databases and identified 54 so-called ‘feed-forward loops’ (FFLs). These are molecular control systems concerned with genetic code transcription and its required signaling processes. When follow-up work was performed, these FFLs were revealed to have essential roles in carcinogenesis.

The team concluded, “Our work provided data for future investigation of the mechanisms underlying Glioblastoma and also potential regulatory subunits that might be useful for biomarker discovery and therapy targets for Glioblastoma.”


Works Cited

“What Causes Brain Cancer? Understanding Glioblastoma”. (July 6, 2011). Neuroscience News. February 15, 2011.


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