US researchers have identified a new gene that they say may be responsible for development of two types of malignant brain tumour.
"Just because a gene is associated with cancer doesn't mean that it's actually causing cancer. In this paper we show for the first time that insulin-like growth factor binding protein 2 (IGFBP2) connects with two other proteins to fuel development and progression of brain tumours," said research team leader Wei Zhang in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using a gene transfer delivery system in a mouse, Zhang's team has showed that IGFBP2 plays an active role in the two types of malignant brain tumour - tumourigenesis of astrocytoma and oligodendroglioma.
"This makes IGFBP2 an important candidate for development of targeted therapy to treat gliomas," Zhang says. Gliomas kill about 13,000 people in the US annually.
"The survival rate in the most advanced stage of glioma has not significantly improved for decades," notes Zhang. "We hope IGFBP2 will provide an effective target for treatment of this devastating disease."
The gene is expressed only at low levels in normal cells, which would potentially reduce side effects caused by a treatment that targeted the gene or its protein product.