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Notch-2 gene linked to common brain tumors in children

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  • Notch-2 gene linked to common brain tumors in children

    This is a particularly interesting finding because NOTCH-2 is a stem cell gene. According to this article, researchers used a drug that was first developed for Alzheimer's called DFK-167 which blocks activation of NOTCH proteins. Please note that one of the ways in which scientists are creating and stabilizing stem cells is by transfecting the NOTCH-2 gene into them. However, in this case, the tumor activity was not associated with normal levels of NOTCH-2 genes but abnormally high levels of NOTCH-2 and abnormally low levels of NOTCH-1. This finding may lead to the new development of a drug for brain and spinal cord tumors in children.

    New Gene Target Found for Common Brain Tumors in Children

    By Vanessa Wasta
    Johns Hopkins Medicine

    Scientists at Johns Hopkins have linked a stem-cell gene called Notch2 to a portion of one of the most common childhood brain cancers, opening the door to tailored therapies that block the gene's tumor-promoting ability.

    The gene, whose pathway is known to be an important factor in regulating brain stem-cell growth and survival, has been studied in fruit flies for almost a century. The research team at the Johns Hopkins Pathology Department and Kimmel Cancer Center found that a protein made by the gene promotes cancer cell growth by 27 percent in a childhood brain tumor called medulloblastoma. Their studies, reported in the Nov. 1 issue of Cancer Research, also revealed that children with high Notch2 gene activity fared worse in the course of their disease than those with less activity in Notch2.

    The researchers report that a drug first developed for Alzheimer's disease called DFK-167, which blocks activation of all Notch proteins, reduces growth of cancerous cells in culture by 80 percent, although unwanted side effects and dosing problems may make it a poor choice for treating human brain cancer. But the investigators are testing more potent drugs of the same class and developing new ones that block only the Notch2 pathway.