Glioblastoma - a very aggressive brain cancer that mostly affects people aged between 50 and 60 years. Even with the best available means of half of patients die within one year after diagnosis and very few survive for more than three years. Over the past decade, many attempts to develop new targeted therapies have failed. The high degree of molecular heterogeneity in cancer cells leads to the evolutionary selection of those cells that can resist drug treatment.
In order to develop better treatments for glioblastoma, a detailed knowledge of the molecular heterogeneity of tumor cells will be crucial, given that this heterogeneity allows the substrate, from which develops drug resistance. The important role played by genetic factors, such as the amplification of genes that promote tumor, and the deletion of the tumor suppressor genes, but the cancer - this is more than genetics. Recent studies suggest a key role of epigenetics, which regulates gene expression and prevents the activation of harmful genes. Whether and how the epigenetic regulation when glioblastoma become resistant to therapy, it was largely an open question.
Examined the role of epigenetics glioblastoma progression in the disease, the study group analyzed the methylation of DNA (which is a classic epigenetic mark) more than 200 patients with glioblastoma, focusing on epigenetic changes that occur during disease progression of glioblastoma. In close cooperation with the Medical University of Vienna researchers and clinicians in eight hospitals across the Austrian study published in Nature Medicine, it was discovered epigenetic changes that accompany the progression of glioblastomas and predict patient survival.
This study is based on the Austrian registry of brain tumors, led by Adelheid Vererom from the Institute of Neurology Medical University of Vienna, who is a senior and corresponding author of the study. "The particular strength when dealing with the national register of patients - is the integration between the centers and the creation of a multidisciplinary group of experts on the disease. This approach has allowed us to effectively address the relevant research question in the context of the Austrian population ", - says Verer,
The combination of epigenetic data from brain imaging and digital pathology study found important links between glioblastoma at the level of molecules, cells and organs. These associations can be used to improve the classification of diseases, "Sequencing of DNA methylation - as a single test - can be used to predict a wide range of clinically relevant tumor properties", - says the student Johanna Klyugammer, who led the data analysis, providing us with a powerful new approach for the characterization of heterogeneity brain tumors. "
Thus, this study reveals a rich resource for understanding the role of epigenetics in glioblastoma and new tools that have broad relevance for personalized medicine. Moreover, it demonstrates the power of a national co-ordination and co-operation in the field of medical research. Senior author Christoph Bock commented: "We have high-quality health care system in Austria, we have to do in the future, including rapid advances in precision medicine. Our study shows that the need for the promotion of clinical care through biomedical research in Austria: interdisciplinary collaboration, access to new technologies and ambitions and financial resources for the successful implementation of projects of this magnitude. "