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Nottingham scientists identify childhood brain cancer genes

   
   
09 Sep 2008 00:00:00.000

PA 214/08

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have isolated three important genes involved in the development of a type of childhood brain cancer. The breakthrough is revealed in a study published in the British Journal of Cancer today (Tuesday).

 

Researchers from the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at The University of Nottingham, on behalf of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG), have found three genes associated with specific characteristics of ependymoma — the third most common form of childhood brain cancer.

 

Before now, relatively little was known about the underlying biology of this disease. The results of this study provide a more detailed understanding of the genetics behind ependymoma, which could help scientists develop targeted drugs to treat the disease more successfully, and with fewer side effects.

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Around 35 children are diagnosed with ependymoma each year in the UK, and around half of these will be under three years old. In total, around 300 children under 15 are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK.

Overall, three quarters of children with cancer in the UK can be successfully treated, but survival for ependymoma is just 50 per cent. And around half the children who are initially successfully treated will suffer a relapse of the disease.

Lead author Professor Richard Grundy from the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre at The University of Nottingham, said: “Understanding the biological causes of cancer is vitally important as it will help us to develop drugs that target abnormal genes in cancer cells but not in healthy cells, which is what traditional chemotherapy treatments do. More accurately targeted treatments will cause fewer side-effects than conventional chemotherapy and be more effective. So this is an important finding which we hope will lead to the development of new treatments for ependymoma.”

The team analysed the genome wide expression pattern of ependymoma identifying three genes with distinct profiles. They confirmed the involvement of these different genes in 74 samples of ependymoma. From this they discovered that a gene called SI00A4 was strongly associated with tumours in very young children. SI00A6 was a marker of a tumour in a specific part of the brain and high levels of CHI3L1 was common in cancers showing a larger degree of cell death.

The genes discovered are all located on a section of Chromosome 1 that this research group had previously linked to poor survival for ependymomas.

Professor Grundy added: “We hope our findings will lead to a more detailed understanding of ependymoma. This is crucial if we are to ensure each child receives the most appropriate treatment for their disease and that we reduce the number of children in which their cancer recurs.”

Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, which is the major funding provider of the CCLG, said: “Relatively little is known about the causes of childhood cancer, so this is an important study. Overall survival rates for children’s cancers have been rapidly improving — thanks in part to international clinical trials — but it’s crucial that research like this takes place to improve treatments even further.”

This study was funded by the Joseph Foote charity (www.josephfoote.co.uk).

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Notes to Editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia.
 
Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
 
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.

The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group


Cancer Research UK is the major funding provider of the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (formally the UK Children's Cancer Study Group) and funds the UK clinical trials work of the group via its coordinating centre in Leicester and 21 paediatric centres throughout the British Isles.

The Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group is the national professional body responsible for the organisation, treatment and management of virtually all children with cancer in the UK.  The group is acknowledged as one of the world's leading childhood cancer clinical trial groups who have made a significant contribution to the international success in treating childhood cancer, resulting in improvements in survival. 

About the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre

Established in 1997, the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre brings together a multi-disciplinary team of leading healthcare professionals and researchers — all experts in their fields, and all committed to improving our understanding of childhood brain tumours. More information is available on the web at www.cbtrc.org

British Journal of Cancer

The BJC is owned by Cancer Research UK. Its mission is to encourage communication of the very best cancer research from laboratories and clinics in all countries. Broad coverage, its editorial independence and consistent high standards have made BJC one of the world's premier general cancer journals. www.bjcancer.com

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7121 6699 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

Story credits

 

More information about the study is available from Professor Richard Grundy on +44 (0)115 823 0620, richard.grundy@nottingham.ac.u

Emma Thorne

Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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