What is the Cause of Glioblastoma Multiforme?
Glioblastoma multiforme causes are poorly understood, though general risk factors for brain cancers include exposure to ionising radiation, environmental pollutants, and genetics.
In December 2009 scientists at Columbia University published a paper in Nature about their discovery of two genes that appear to be responsible for glioblastoma multiforme. They were found to be active in 60% of glioblastoma patients.
The two genes are C/EPB and Stat3. C/EPB codes for CCAAT-enhancer-binding proteins which are a family of transcription factors found in a number of cells include kidney, liver and brain cells. They are involved in cellular differentiation, proliferation, and growth. Stat3 codes for Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 which is also a transcription factor. It is involved in a number of cellular processes including growth and cell death.
The Columbia scientists say that C/EPB and Stat3 work in tandem and when simultaneously activated turn on other genes which makes cells cancerous. All study patients with tumours where both genes were active died within 140 weeks of diagnosis. But about 50% of patients without activity from these genes lived for longer. The genes did not appear to cause very much damage when acting on their own.
When the researchers turned off both genes in human glioblastoma cells, it blocked their ability to form tumours when injected into mice.