Brain cancer study may lead to therapy

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brain cancerBALTIMORE, MD, United States (UPI) -- U.S. and Italian scientists have inhibited human brain cancers in mice by inducing positive changes in cells behaving as cancer stem cells.

The most common type of brain cancer -- glioblastoma -- is marked by the presence of the stem cell-like brain cells, which, instead of triggering the replacement of damaged cells, form cancer tissue.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Milan in Italy used bone morphogenic proteins, which cause neural stem cell-like clusters to lose their stem cell property, which, in turn, stops their ability to divide.

First they pretreated human glioblastoma cells with bone morphogenic protein 4, or BMP4, then injected the treated cells into mouse brains. In mice injected with non-pretreated cells, large, invasive cancers developed. In the mice with BMP4-treated cells, no cancers were seen. Three to four months after injection, all mice that receiving untreated cells had died, and nearly all mice with BMP4-treated cells were alive.

The researchers said clinical studies using BMP4 could begin within a year and, if successful, drug therapies might be available to the public within three to four years.

The research appeared in the Dec. 6 issue of the journal Nature.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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