Researchers Trace Glioma Brain Tumor Origins to Epigenome

Estimates from the American Cancer Society show that doctors will diagnose around 24,000 malignant spinal cord or brain tumors this year, with an estimated 18,990 people losing their lives to the condition.

Gliomas are a class of tumors that grow on the brain or spinal cord, applying pressure onto crucial parts of the brain and causing symptoms such as headaches, memory loss, cognitive decline, irritability, personality changes, vision problems, seizures and speech difficulties. Gliomas can be quite hard to treat because they tend to grow quickly into the spinal cord or brain, making their removal via surgery without damaging any healthy tissue very difficult.

The blood-brain barrier also prevents chemotherapy drugs from reaching gliomas and can reduce the rate of treatment success.

A team of researchers from Harvard, the Broad Institute of MIT and Dana Farber’s Bernstein Laboratory looking to deepen our understanding of glioma brain tumors has discovered that these often incurable brain tumors may originate from changes to the epigenome.

The epigenome is a collection or record of all chemical changes occurring to the DNA and histone proteins present in a living organism. This bevy of chemical compounds is deposited on the DNA and can alter gene activity without affecting DNA sequence.

According to the researchers, the development of gliomas may be tied to the epigenetic alteration of the activity of two specific genes: a tumor suppressor gene and a cancer-causing oncogene.

While working with animal models, the researchers demonstrated that modifications to the epigenome reduced tumor suppressor gene activity while activating the cancer-causing oncogenes, significantly reducing the body’s defenses and encouraging the growth of tumor cells in the brain.

This goes against the conventional understanding that cancers often come from alterations and mutations in the DNA itself.

Still, the findings are extremely significant as they take us a step closer to better understanding gliomas and developing more effective treatment strategies. Current treatments for glioma brain tumors include surgery to remove as much of the tumor and chemotherapy coupled with radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells.

However, depending on the location of the tumor, brain-cancer surgery can result in side effects such as swelling, infection, bleeding in the brain, blood clots, seizures or impaired motor skills and memory. Chemotherapy drugs can also have adverse effects, including loss of appetite, bone marrow suppression (low blood cell count) and fatigue when they are used to treat gliomas in the brain or spinal cord.

The recent findings may pave the way for further research into alternative treatments and aid in the development of safer, more effective glioma therapies.

A lot of other efforts are also being directed toward improving the field of brain cancer care. For example, many companies such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) are running drug-development programs so that patients can have more options for their treatment. With time, these efforts will yield results that improve the outcomes for those diagnosed with brain cancer.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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