August 3, 2011, Updated September 11, 2012

Hebrew University researchers have come up with novel biomarkers for predicting survival of patients with glioblastoma, the most common and deadliest of brain cancers, as well as a new method for treating the disease.

Yissum Research Development, the technology transfer arm of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the discovery by the research team led by Dr. Rotem Karni and the post-doctoral researcher Dr. Regina Golan-Gerstel from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, at the Hebrew University School of Medicine, is more precise than existing markers.

“The biomarker discovered by Dr. Karni can help in assessing the subtype and severity of glioblastoma tumors. This is extremely important for planning the course of treatment. Furthermore, Dr. Karni’s research leads to a novel approach for treating this type of cancer, the most common primary brain tumor, and one which currently does not have satisfactory treatment,” said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum.

The research was published in the July issue of Cancer Research. The invention was patented by Yissum, who is currently exploring potential partners for further development.

The biomarkers discovered by Dr. Karni enable accurate survival prognosis of glioblastoma patients. The researchers discovered that the level of a cellular protein named hnRNP A2/B1 is elevated in glioblastomas, and the higher the level of the protein, the poorer the prognosis. The protein is involved in RNA splicing, an RNA processing step that is necessary for proper gene expression. 

The research team also discovered that the hnRNP A2/B1 protein, in and by itself, can transform normal cells into cancerous ones, and inhibition of the protein prevents tumor development in mice. The research paper describes the molecular mechanism underlying this transformation.

Now Dr. Karni’s research team is attempting to develop a novel method for treating brain cancer based on inhibition of hnRNP A2/B1 production using RNA antisense technology.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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