Glioblastoma is a rare and very serious type of cancer that emerges in the brain and has an extremely high mortality rate. There are approximately 12,000 registered cases every year in the United States, and the manner it spreads makes it complicated when it comes to effective treatment.
DNA Modifications - Switching Genes On And Off
One of the molecular modifications that was found to be responsible for causing this type of cancer is the faulty epigenetic regulation. In a particular cell-type, the epigenome modifies the DNA by dictating which genes should be turned off or on. Deformities at the level of these tissues are known to be partly responsible for cancer development. The methods that are currently employed in predicting the way brain tumor will progress in a patient are strongly based on these epigenetic tumor subtypes.
Nonetheless, due to the fact that the epigenome is a convoluted and sophisticated formation, while epigenetic marks have been recently discovered, not all of them have been subjected to scientific research.
Tumor Prognosis - New Possibilities
The research was conducted by Brock Christensen, Ph.D., member of Cancer Center. The study analyzed the data provided by various DNA mutations that are part of 30 different glioblastomas.
According to the Christensen, the role that different DNA mutations in healthy and affected tissues have in terms of functionality has recently started to gain traction in the scientific world. The 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine is essential when it comes to DNA analysis, as it is a pyrimidine nitrogen base responsible for turning a gene on and off.
"Here, we uncovered that specific DNA 5mC and 5hmC patterns are disrupted in GBM and uniquely characterize the molecular switches of the genome known as 'enhancers.' Importantly, we discovered that 5hmC signatures had a particularly strong association with patient survival," he added.
The new scientific approach used by the researchers involved high-end molecular biology combined with statistical techniques, in order to identify the levels of different DNA alterations throughout important regions of the genome.
The research is the first one to have described the distribution of 5hmC in the glioblastoma genome, as well as its connection with the survival rate of this type of cancer. Further scientific work could focus on mapping the epigenome and its implications in various brain tumors, which could lead to a better prognosis when it comes to cancer development, as well as more efficient treatment formulas.
Generally, glioblastomas are highly malignant, as a very large number of tumor cells reproduce at any given time. The cells are also nourished by blood supply. At the center of the tumor, there will usually be dead cells. Since these malignant cells are formed from healthy brain cells, it is common for them to invade normal brain tissue. However, this type of cancerous tumor doesn't usually spread in the rest of the body.