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Scientists find novel mechanism of glioblastoma

Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 · Volume: XLV · Issue: 2


Luiz O. F. Penalva, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cellular and structural biology, led the research team studying the mechanisms involved with the development of a brain tumor called glioblastoma at the post-transcriptional level.
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Luiz O. F. Penalva, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cellular and structural biology, led the research team studying the mechanisms involved with the development of a brain tumor called glioblastoma at the post-transcriptional level.clear graphic

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Contact: Elizabeth Allen, 210-450-2020

SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 19, 2012) — 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., illustrated that the connection between two RNA-binding proteins, Musashi1 and HuR, can have important consequences to glioblastoma.

Dr. Penalva is an assistant professor in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology and a member of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“This is a novel finding in terms of what we know about glioblastoma development,” Dr. Penalva said. “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.”

Key regulators
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, Dr. 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 Dr. 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,” Dr. Penalva said. “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.”

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The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.

 
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