Study finds clues to brain tumors' origins

November 26, 2003

Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center have discovered that brain tumors may be derived from the cells that form the nervous system, called neural stems cells, which may help researchers understand how this cancer begins and one day could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment.

"Is brain cancer a stem cell disease? Our study suggests that pediatric brain tumors develop from cells that have many of the same characteristics as neural stems cells, but that those cells also have an abnormal ability to grow and change. We believe that neural stem cells, found normally within our brain and spinal cords, could transform into cancer cells," said Dr. Harley Kornblum, a pediatric neurologist, member of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and an associate professor of pharmacology and pediatrics at UCLA.

"We want to understand that transformation process from a normal stem cell to a cancer cell. Recent work has shown that some cancers can arise from abnormal cells that are like stem cells in that they self-renew and produce the different kinds of cells that make up a tumor. Thinking about cancer as originating from these stem cells is a new way of thinking about the fundamental nature of the disease that promises to lead to better diagnostic tests and improved cancer-specific treatments in the future," said Houman Hemmati, the lead author and an M.D./Ph.D. student in the UCLA- California Institute of Technology Medical Scientist Training Program.

The study was recently published in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Brain tumors are notoriously difficult to treat and we are always looking for new ways to study them and new avenues for treatment," said Dr. Jorge Lazareff, director of pediatric neurosurgery and associate professor of neurosurgery at UCLA. "In children, brain tumors are the most common solid cancer. It is only by understanding the biology of these tumors that we will find a cure."

The origin of pediatric brain tumors is still unclear and scientists have wondered for some time if there is a connection between neural stem cells and brain tumors, according to Kornblum

"This study makes an important advance by demonstrating a previously unrecognized connection between stem cells and pediatric brain tumor-derived cells. By viewing tumors as a type of embryonic cell gone awry, this opens up new possibilities for diagnosis and treatment," said Dr. Marianne Bronner-Fraser, a developmental biologist and the Albert Billings Ruddock Professor of Biology at Caltech.

"It is possible that these types of cells will be the ones we want to study further and eventually attack in treating brain tumors. Additionally, the cellular mechanisms that regulate brain tumor growth may be similar to the mechanisms that regulate normal neural stem cell growth," Kornblum said. "Thus, the study of neural stem cell proliferation will provide important clues to the treatment of brain tumors. Once we know the molecules that regulate neural stem cell growth, we can use a variety of means to test whether they regulate cancer stem cell proliferation and then develop treatments to interrupt this process. Our studies also stress the importance of viewing different kinds of brain tumors as different entities in that the stem cells of origins for different tumors are different."

"This work demonstrates that major advances can be made by combining different scientific perspectives- tumor biology, stem cell and developmental biology. The joint UCLA/ Caltech program fosters this important and cross-disciplinary discovery," Bronner-Frase said.
-end-
Kornblum is the senior author of this major collaboration between UCLA and Caltech scientists and physicians, including Dr. Bronner-Fraser at Caltech and Drs. Ichiro Nakano, Daniel Geschwind and Lazareff at UCLA.

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center is composed of more than 240 cancer researchers and clinicians engaged in cancer research, prevention, detection, control and education. The center, one of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, is dedicated to promoting cancer research and applying the results to clinical situations. In 2003 the center was named the best cancer center in the Western United States by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for four consecutive years.

For more information about UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, visit www.cancer.mednet.ucla.edu.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.