Gene deletion may explain many cases of glioblastoma

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An important gene deletion appears to occur in as many as 1 of every 4 cases of glioblastoma—the most common adult brain cancer—scientists have found.

The NFKBIA gene is normally present on chromosome 14. Defects in the gene have been found in Hodgkin lymphoma; multiple myeloma; melanoma; and breast, lung, and colon cancers. Now, a team of investigators led by Griffith Harsh, MD, professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, has implicated the deletion of a copy of NFKBIA as a contributor to glioblastoma. This deletion adds to tumor development, promotes resistance to therapy, and worsens survival prospects.

According to a statement issued by Stanford University Medical Center, the deletion of NFKBIA triggers biochemical processes similar to those resulting from a better-known aberration common in glioblastomas: alteration of the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR. At least a third of glioblastomas feature an abnormality in the gene coding for EGFR.

The researchers found that a surprisingly high proportion of tumor samples—25%—collected from glioblastoma patients over the course of 10 years demonstrated NFKBIA deletions. Approximately a third of the samples exhibited EGFR aberrations, with both gene aberrations occurred together in only about 5% of the samples.

The new NFKBIA findings, published online by The New England Journal of Medicine (, may eventually help improve prognosis and treatment of glioblastoma—for example, the tumor potentially could be targeted with drugs that stabilize I-kappa-B, the protein product of NFKBIA.

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