Protein link may be key to new treatment for aggressive brain tumor

Biomedical researchers at the University of Central Florida have found a protein that could hold the key to treating one of the most common and aggressive brain tumors in adults.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the type of malignant brain tumor that killed the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, is difficult to treat because it spreads cancerous cells to other parts of the brain very quickly. About 10,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.

There is no cure, and treatments have limited success. They consist of surgically removing the tumor from the brain, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. About half of the patients don’t survive for more than a year after their diagnosis

That’s why the role of the protein TRPC6 discovered at UCF is so promising.

“Collectively, our studies indicate that TRPC6 is a key mediator of tumor growth of GBM. It may be a promising therapeutic target in the treatment of human GBM,” said Sic L. Chan, the UCF assistant professor of Neuroscience who led the team of scientists.

TRPC6 is a receptor channel protein found in most, if not all, cells in the body. It promotes cell growth during development of the central nervous system.

Chan and his team ran several experiments with cancerous brain tissue obtained from Florida Hospital in Orlando and Duke University Medical Center. They found that this protein is strongly expressed and functional in brain tumor cells. Further research found that they could stop the growth and spread of tumors by knocking down the expression of this protein.

It is the first time such findings have been made with this particular kind of brain tumor.

“This is very exciting, because our work will help patients in the future,” said UCF research fellow Srinivasulu Chigurupati, who worked on the team. “Malignant gliomas remain one of the most devastating cancers despite recent advancements.”

UCF’s research findings are published in the Jan. 1, 2010, edition of the journal Cancer Research.

Others who contributed to the research include Raji Venkataraman, Daniel Barrera, Anusha Naganathan, Meenu Madan, Leena Paul, Jogi V. Pattisapu, George A. Kyriazis and Kiminobu Sugaya from UCF; Sergey Bushnev from Florida Hospital Cancer Institute; and Justin D. Lathia and Jeremy N. Rich from the Duke University Medical Center and the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

Chan joined UCF’s Burnett School for Biomedical Sciences in the College of Medicine in August 2005. Before arriving at UCF, Chan was a research scientist at the National Institute on Aging and McGill University. Previously, he worked as a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. He has degrees from the University of Miami and McGill University in Canada.

UCF Stands For Opportunity –The University of Central Florida is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the 3rd largest in the nation with more than 53,500 students. UCF’s first classes were offered in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research environments that power the region’s economic development. UCF’s culture of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy. For more information visit http://news.ucf.edu

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