Dr. Regina Golan-Gerstl Dr. Regina Golan-Gerstl Photo: Dr. Regina Golan-Gerstl

Researcher unlocks cause of deadly brain cancer

After losing her mother to glioblastoma, Dr. Regina Golan-Gerstl is making strides in the fight against it.

Science is at least one step closer to solving the mysteries of one of the world's deadliest forms of brain cancer. Known as glioblastoma, the tumorous condition has a 90 percent fatality rate within five years and represents about 17 percent of all primary brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

After her own mother's death from glioblastoma, Dr. Regina Golan-Gerstl, a postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, has spent the past few years researching the cancer. Her work has led to a discovery: a protein, normally present in human cells, that is overly present in glioblastoma brain tumors. The research was conducted with a team from Hebrew University and other institutions, including the University of Massachusetts and Oslo University Hospital. Their findings were published April 10 in the journal Cell Reports.

The genetic protein discovered by Golan-Gerstl and her fellow researchers is called hnRNP A2/B1 and is what is known as a "driving oncogene," which turns normal cells cancerous. Golan-Gerstl told No Camels that finding a way to "turn off" this protein may be a step toward creating a treatment for the deadly cancer, as well as other cancers of the breast, lung or colon.

Several other institutions have also made recent progress into glioblastoma. Research presented recently in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons examined new ways to detect the cancer, which can be hard to detect during an MRI. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have found a series of four additional proteins that act as "molecular switches" to control aggressive tumor cells. Three new studies from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center look at how broken DNA can be repaired after radiation therapy. Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, meanwhile, have found that antipsychotic drugs can help to kill the tumors associated with glioblastoma.

Golan-Gerstl told No Camels that their work researching the hnRNP A2/B1 protein continues. "We are working on shutting it down at a molecular level," she said.

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