Gene May Spur Childhood Brain Cancer

It's needed for brain development but doesn't switch off, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A gene that's normally switched off after fulfilling its role in brain development appears linked to a common childhood brain cancer, says a study in the Feb. 1 issue of Cancer Research.

The study found that multiple extra copies of this gene, called OTX2, had been switched back on in tumor cells taken from children with medulloblastoma, the most common form of pediatric brain cancer. Medulloblastoma accounts for nearly a third of all brain tumors occurring in children in the United States.

The scientists also found that trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), a powerful derivative of vitamin A, suppressed growth and induced death in tumor cells carrying switched-on OTX2. Treatment with ATRA had an effect on more than half of medulloblastomas grown in the laboratory.

"The response that ATRA imposes upon these medulloblastoma brain tumor cell lines suggests that this type of tumor may respond favorably to ATRA-based therapy," principal investigator Dr. Hai Yan, of the Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

"ATRA is already clinically approved for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia. These studies lay the conceptual and practical framework for clinical trials using ATRA in the treatment of a commonly lethal pediatric disease," Yan said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about medulloblastoma.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Feb. 2, 2005

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