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Gene tagging and its role in glioma recurrence

  • Researcher: Dr Giuseppe Testa
  • Institution: Istituto Europeo di Oncologia, Milan, Italy
  • Award Amount: £136,500 for 3 years from October 2013
  • Cancer Type: Brain Tumour
Gene tagging and its role in glioma recurrence
Thousands of genes within our cells act as our blueprint, by controlling our cells' behaviour. The way that these genes work can sometimes be controlled by adding specific chemical groups or "tags" on to the genes, or the proteins that act as their scaffolding. The addition of these tags can lead to an increase or decrease in the activity of genes, and adding the tags in different patterns, in different places, leads to different effects. This often happens incorrectly in cancers, when incorrect changes in gene activity can allow the cell to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a tumour. One such form of tagging is called DNA methylation, where the tag is a small molecule called a methyl group. Addition of too many of these methyl groups to genes is linked with tumour development.

Dr Testa will be continuing the research from a previous Worldwide Cancer Research grant where he has been investigating how methylation of histone H3, a gene scaffolding protein, is involved in the development of glioma. Gliomas are the most common type of brain tumour, and they are made up of a group of 3 different types of brain tumours, which includes glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

Dr Testa and his team found a window of time during GBM development, in which tumour growth was dependent on a specific pattern of methylation on histone H3. They want to continue this work with their new grant, by studying how these gene tags are involved in gliomas recurring. They will be using tissue samples from GBM patients. Surgery is becoming less frequent when GBM recurs, so these samples are a unique opportunity to study the relationship between gene tagging and the development of the disease. They will use an innovative combination of computer analysis and lab experiments to study gene networks involved in this disease. This research will hopefully give us a better understanding of how gene tagging affects different stages of the disease.
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