Brain cancer gene discovery opens pathways to new treatments
16 November 2007
Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Kolling Institute have found a series of genes that will help neuro-oncologists tailor treatments for brain cancers, potentially extending survival and improving quality of life.
The discovery of five genes was reported by Dr Kerrie McDonald from the Hormones and Cancer Group at the Kolling Institute at the recent Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA) Annual Scientific Meeting in Adelaide.
Dr McDonald and colleagues from the Kolling Institute, Royal North Shore Hospital and CSIRO statisticians were able to use tissue samples from the Australasian Brain Tumour Bank to simultaneously profile thousands of genes using microarray technology.
"We found five genes of high clinical significance, from which we are developing biomarkers to enable neuro-oncologists to predict how their patients will respond to treatment and to vary the type of drug and dosage accordingly," Dr McDonald said.
"In the US related research using biomarkers has resulted in patients being up to 50 times more responsive to tailored treatments over the standard treatment."
Reporting the findings, Dr Kerrie McDonald said that even though every brain cancer was different, current treatment was largely a "one drug fits all" approach.
"After surgical removal of the tumour, patients are treated with radiotherapy and temozolomide chemotherapy," Dr McDonald said. "Three out of four patients will not respond to this first line of treatment, contributing to poorer survival outcomes for brain cancer patients."
COSA President, Professor David Goldstein, said the finding was welcome news for the 1400 brain cancer patients diagnosed each year in Australia.
"While we have seen enormous strides in development of treatments for many types of cancer, there has been little in the way of significant advances in brain cancer treatment," Professor Goldstein said. "This development holds out the promise of genuine gains in patient survival and improved quality of life."
Dr McDonald said trials using the biomarkers would take place over the next two years and be available within five years.