Molecule inhibits the progression of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma

New research provides a way to combat a deadly brain tumor in children.

Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, commonly referred to as DIPG, is a type of tumor that starts in an area of the brain stem called pons, which helps control breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and many other critical functions. These tumors are called glioma because they originate from the glial cells, a type of supportive cell in the brain.

DIPG occurs almost exclusively in children, especially those under the age of ten. In America alone, about 300 children are diagnosed with DIPG each year. Over 90% of DIPG patients die within 12 months, and 97% within three years. These statistics make DIPG the leading cause of deaths from brain tumors in children.

DIPG is hard to treat because of its location and the way it infiltrates normal brain tissue. Radiotherapy, the standard treatment for DIPG, can only prolong patients' survival by several months. Currently, there is no effective chemotherapy for the devastating pediatric cancer.

Now a team of researchers, headed by Ali Shilatifard from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, have identified a molecule that has the potential to kill DIPG tumor cells.

Previous studies have demonstrated that over 80% of DIPG tumors have a specific mutation in a histone gene, H3K27M. In this study, Shilatifard and colleagues tested a molecule that detaches bromodomain proteins from their binding to the mutant protein, the histone H3K27M.

Tumor cells from a DIPG patient were injected into the brain stem of a mouse. The mouse was then treated the molecule. Results showed that treatment with the molecule halted tumor cell growth and caused the tumor cells to differentiate. Collectively, the data demonstrate that the molecule can inhibit tumor progression. The study is published online in Nature Medicine.
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