Most common brain cancer may originate in neural stem cells

Stem cells in petri dishANN ARBOR, Mich. — University of Michigan scientists have found that a deficiency in a key tumor suppressor gene in the brain leads to the most common type of adult brain cancer. The study, conducted in mice that mimic human cancer, points the way to more effective future treatments and a way to screen for the disease early.

Appearing June 2 in Cancer Cell, the U-M team’s findings in mice show for the first time that:

  • Glioblastoma, the type of cancer that afflicts U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and is diagnosed in about 10,000 Americans each year, may originate in neural stem cells located in a brain region known as the subventricular zone, or SVZ.
     
  • In mice, neural stem cells that normally live in this niche give rise to more specialized nerve cells that migrate out of the niche. Cancer could begin with a single genetic mutation in the p53 gene, which makes stem cells migrate out of the niche like their specialized progenies.

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