Scientists Uncover Novel Mechanism of Glioblastoma Development
- Changes to specific proteins can lead to tumor growth and development.
- Glioblastoma patients often have a poor prognosis.
- Understanding molecular mechanisms can lead to new treatments.
PHILADELPHIA — Most research on glioblastoma development, a complicated tumor of the brain with a poor prognosis, has focused on the gene transcription level, but scientists suggest that post-transcriptional regulation could be equally or even more important.
In a recent report in Molecular Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, scientists led by Luiz O. F. Penalva, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of cellular and structural biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, illustrated that the connection between two RNA-binding proteins, Musashi1 and HuR, can have important consequences to glioblastoma.
“This is a novel finding in terms of what we know about glioblastoma development,” said Penalva. “Most of what we know about glioblastoma is limited to gene transcription-level research, but there are other regulatory processes beyond transcription that when disrupted could contribute to tumor formation.”
RNA-binding proteins are key regulators in all cellular processes from splicing to translation. Changes that affect either their function or expression levels can have dramatic consequences to protein production and can lead to disease states including cancer.
In the lab, Penalva and his colleagues showed that increased levels of HuR up-regulate the expression of another RNA-binding protein, Musashi1. Both proteins control the expression of cancer-related genes; their interaction brings together two important gene networks with major consequences to glioblastoma development.
The results are still early, but Penalva stressed that little is known about glioblastoma development and the findings represent a move toward greater understanding.
“To treat cancer, you have to understand what triggers tumor formation,” said Penalva. “If we continue to think that all the activity is at the transcription level, we are just fooling ourselves. Clearly, something is going on beyond that level.”
The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad, and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.