Wednesday October 17 01:13 PM EDT
"Cell Repair Weakness a Brain Cancer Marker"
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Cell Repair Weakness a Brain Cancer Marker
By Ed Edelson
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthScoutNews) -- A weakened ability of certain cells to repair damage to their genetic material seems to be an important indicator of the risk of the brain cancer called glioma, a study finds.
Cells from glioma patients are more significantly damaged by gamma radiation than those from cancer-free individuals, report researchers led by Melissa L. Bondy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Medical Center. The finding appears in today's issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (news - web sites).
"In combination with other factors, we could use this to try to identify people at high risk of brain cancer, and we're looking at whether this can predict the outcome of treatment. Radiation can be used to treat brain cancer, and if there is a poor ability to repair DNA, it could affect how a patient is treated," says Bondy.
More than half of all brain cancers are gliomas, tumors that occur in the glial cells that surround the nerve cells of the brain. Exposure to gamma radiation is a known risk factor for glioma.
Bondy and her colleagues compared immune system cells called lymphocytes from 219 patients with glioma with the same cells from 238 cancer-free individuals matched for age, sex and ethnic origin. The cells were grown in laboratory cultures, and then some were exposed to gamma radiation.
The researchers then looked at the damage to DNA, the molecule that carries genetic information in cell chromosomes. On average, cells from glioma patients had 20 percent more chromosome breaks than those from healthy patients. The results indicate that "sensitivity to gamma radiation is statistically significantly associated with an increased risk of glioma," the researchers write.
The study is important because of the method it uses to look at the full range of genetic repair mechanisms, says Dr. Kenneth J. Dornfeld, a lecturer in radiation oncology at the University of Michigan. Other studies have looked at single genes, but the method reported by the Texas researchers "is a way to look at DNA repair mechanisms on a global basis, a total picture of the way DNA is repaired." That technique can be applied to other malignancies, such as colon cancer, he says.
"I don't think the method is quite ready for use in the clinic right away," Dornfeld says. "On a population basis, we need to have a stark contrast between patients who test positive and those who don't. The difference in this study was pretty subtle for a screening test, but conceptually, it is very important."
What To Do: Any practical payoff from this kind of research will take some years.
For information about glioma and other brain cancers, go to the
National Cancer Institute or the
Society for Neuroscience.
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