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Molecular therapeutics advance fight against brain cancer

(Philadelphia, PA) -- An estimated 41,000 new cases of primary brain tumors are expected to be diagnosed in 2004, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. To further narrow the gap between diagnosis and effective therapy, physicians at the University of Pennsylvania Health System now offer several promising approaches to brain tumor treatment, including novel imaging for oncologic neurosurgery and refined genetic testing for tumors to better target treatment.

Through enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), newer and broader information is helping to better guide tumor removal. MRI is used to measure the anatomy and metabolism of tumors. This informs surgeons pre- and post-operatively with a three-dimensional map of tumor-associated blood flow to more precisely assess the full extent of tumor growth versus conventional imaging methods. "This novel approach helps guide surgery and assessment of treatment response," says Donald M. O'Rourke, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurosurgery. These novel imaging methods are leading to increased patient survival by allowing for greater tumor removal in a safe manner.

Neuroscientists are also ushering in a new era in which genetics will dictate treatment. In the 1990s researchers noted that a more favorable prognosis in patients with certain brain tumors, primarily oligodendrogliomas, was associated with a deletion of genes on chromosomes 1 and 19. This genetic loss translates into a significant life-expectancy gain for some patients and is therefore a robust predictor that post-surgery chemotherapy should be given to such patients.

Patients with the genetic deletion on chromosome 1 have a median survival in certain cases of about 10 years and respond particularly well to chemotherapy given immediately after surgery. Patients with the deletion have slower-growing tumors and show a better response to chemotherapy; whereas, those without the deletion have relatively faster-growing tumors and are
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
4-Aug-2004


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