Scientists identify gene responsible for deadly glioblastoma

July 15, 2020

Scientists have identified an oncogene (a cancer-causing gene) responsible for glioblastoma, the deadliest brain tumor, according to the University of Virginia. The discovery offers a promising new treatment target for a cancer that is always fatal.

The researchers say the oncogene is essential to the survival of the cancer cells. Without it, the cancer cells die. Scientists have already developed many targeted therapies for other cancers with a similar “oncogene addiction.”

Oncogenes are naturally occurring genes that spiral out of control and cause cancer. The oncogene Li and his colleagues identified, AVIL, normally helps cells maintain their size and shape. But the gene can be shifted into overdrive by a variety of factors, the researchers found. This causes cancer cells to form and spread. Blocking the gene’s activity completely destroyed glioblastoma cells in lab mice but had no effect on healthy cells. This suggests targeting the gene could be an effective treatment option.

During their research, the scientists discovered an abnormality in the AVIL gene. That prompted them to examine adult cancers to see if the gene could be contributing there. And it was. The researchers concluded the gene plays a “critical role” in glioblastoma, they report in a new scientific paper outlining their findings.

The scientists believe their approach can be used to discover other oncogenes – hopefully leading to new treatments for a variety of cancers.

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