Brain tumors called ependymomas that occur in different parts of the central nervous system appear to arise from subpopulations of stem cells called radial glia cells (RGCs), according to investigators at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital. The discovery explains why some identical-looking ependymomas are actually distinctly different diseases, the researchers said.
This new information, in combination with the techniques used to conduct the study, holds promise for designing more effective treatments for ependymomas as well as for other solid tumors. A report on this work appears in the October issue of Cancer Cell. RGCs are unspecialized cells that line the surface of the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces in the brain) and the spinal cord, and give rise to normal mature cells in the nervous system. The St. Jude study found strong evidence that when rare populations of RGCs acquire mutations that disrupt the cell signaling pathways controlling growth and differentiation, these cells reproduce continually and give rise to an ependymoma.
The St. Jude finding that RGCs can give rise to these tumors is consistent with evidence from a variety of researchers that cancers arise from, and are maintained by, a rare number of mutated stem cells called cancer stem cells, according to Richard Gilbertson, M.D., Ph.D., associate member in the Developmental Neurobiology and the Hematology-Oncology departments. Gilbertson is senior author of the Cancer Cell paper.
Kelly Perry | EurekAlert!
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