A study published online Dec. 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine has identified an important gene deletion in up to one of every four
A study published online Dec. 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine has identified an important gene deletion in up to one of every four cases of glioblastoma, the most common adult brain cancer. This deletion contributes to tumor development, promotes resistance to therapy and considerably worsens a patient’s survival prospects.
The deletion of the gene, known as NFKBIA, triggers biochemical processes similar to those resulting from a better-known aberration common in glioblastomas: alteration of the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR. That both defects produce the same outcome may help explain why efforts to treat the disease by targeting only one aberration have faltered.
“Glioblastoma is the most malignant type of brain tumor,” said Griffith Harsh , MD, professor of neurosurgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the study’s senior author. Untreated, patients usually survive fewer than six months after diagnosis. After surgical excision, tumors often regrow rapidly. Radiation and temozolomide, a chemotherapeutic agent, can prolong survival, but not by much. These treatments extend median survival to perhaps 18 months.
Defects in NFKBIA, a gene normally present on chromosome 14, have been found in a wide range of cancers including Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, melanoma, and breast, lung and colon cancer. But the new study is the first to implicate the deletion of a copy of NFKBIA as a contributing cause of glioblastoma.