Excess number of genetic copies may be a factor in triggering growth of cancer cells, scientists at the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, have revealed.
New data, generated by Peter Lichter and colleagues, at the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, have characterized a molecular pathway underlying low-grade forms of a type of brain tumour known as an astrocytoma.
The authors thus suggest that therapeutics targeting this pathway might provide a new approach to treating individuals with low-grade atrocytomas.
For the study, the team analysed the DNA of astrocytomas from a large number of children.
It was revealed that the most common genetic mutation was the duplication of a region of DNA containing the BRAF gene.
Tumours with this genetic mutation showed signs of increased BRAF protein activity.
Consistent with the idea that increased BRAF activity had a role in the development of the tumours, mutations in the BRAF gene that caused increased BRAF protein activity were detected in tumours that did not display duplication of the region of DNA containing the BRAF gene.
As pharmacologic and genetic silencing of the BRAF signalling pathway and the BRAF gene, respectively, prevented tumour cells from low-grade gliomas growing in culture, it was suggested that inhibiting the signalling pathway downstream of BRAF might be beneficial for individuals with low-grade atrocytomas.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.