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Variant in gene associated with telomeres predicts longer survival of deadly brain tumor

ANAHEIM - An exceptionally large study of patients with glioblastoma multiforme has found an association between a genetic variation and a doubling of survival rate - the strongest link ever established between genetic variation and outcome in this deadliest form of brain cancer, according to researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, found the differences in a common variant in a number of repeats (short or long) of the hTERT gene, which produces human telomerase.

This study of 301 patients, which the researchers believe is the largest to date of patients with glioblastoma multiforme, found that the 36 patients (about 11 percent) who had the "SS" variant genotype of hTERT survived an average of 25 months, compared to about 14 months for those who had either the "SL" or "LL" genotypes.

The findings are exciting, says the lead investigator, Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Epidemiology, because they suggest new treatment directions for patients with a cancer that is both the most common glioma and the one offering the poorest hope of survival.

"It is a real advance because we have never seen any genotype that can stratify glioblastoma multiforme patients into different treatment outcome groups like this," says Bondy. "Now we need to verify the finding, study the mechanism, and see if there is a way that these results can be used either as a biomarker or to individualize treatment."

For example, if the SS variant genotype of hTERT is confirmed to have better response to chemotherapy and radiation treatment, then it is possible that these therapies will extend survival for patients with glioblastoma multiforme, she says.

Telomeres, the structures that cap the end of cellular chromosomes, have been linked to both the aging process and cancer development. Telomerase is an enzyme that hel
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Contact: Nancy Jensen
nwjensen@mdanderson.org
713-792-0655
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
18-Apr-2005


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