UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


New doors open to the understanding of the origin of brain tumours

7 December 2009

New research reveals that stem cells in the brain can turn to brain cancer.

Normally, adult brain stem cells form more mature cells such as nerve cells (neurones) astrocytes (supporting cells) or oligodendrocytes (myelin forming cells that wrap around processes of neurones). Researchers at the Division of Neuropathology at UCL Institute of Neurology have shown that different mutations in the stem cells turn them into different types of brain cancer.

[image reference is broken]

Professor Sebastian Brandner, head of the Division of Neuropathology, who led this research in collaboration with Dr Thomas Jacques at UCL Institute of Child Health and scientists at University of California San Francisco (UCSF, USA) said: 

"This finding is absolutely novel in the field if brain cancer research. It opens new doors to the understanding of the origin of brain tumours and what influences their behaviour. We now understand better how these tumours form and we can investigate further what leads from a rogue stem cell to a brain tumour. This model will give us new opportunities to develop strategies to fight brain cancer. "

Studies are underway to translate this model system towards a therapy platform for human brain cancers.

The study was published in the EMBO Journal on 19 November 2009

Reference: Combinations of genetic mutations in the adult neural stem cell compartment determine brain tumour phenotypes. Thomas S Jacques, Alexander Swales, Monika J Brzozowski, Nico V Henriquez, Jacqueline M Linehan, Zaman Mirzadeh, Catherine O' Malley, Heike Naumann, Arturo Alvarez-Buylla and Sebastian Brandner; The EMBO Journal advance online publication 19 November 2009; doi:10.1038/emboj.2009.327