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A new step forward in the fight against cancer

An Italian team contributed to identifying the genetic fusion constituting the basis of 3% of glioblastomas, the most aggressive kind of brain tumours

A new step forward in the fight against cancer

Claudia Astarita

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Antonio Iavarone and Anna Lasorella are two outstanding Italian scientists at Columbia University who have recently taken a huge step forward in the fight against cancer. In particular, the team directed by Iavarone and Lasorella has identified the genetic fusion constituting the basis of 3% of glioblastomas, the most aggressive kind of brain tumour. The results of this ground-breaking scientific discovery have already been published on the latest number of the scientific journal Nature.

The fusion of two genes (FGFR3 and TACC3) is also typical of other kinds of tumour, such as the one affecting lungs, breast, and bladder. As Ivarone remarked, his team identified in 2012 the dangerous fusion of the two genes present in glioblastoma. What is new today is the discovery on how the alteration produced by the fusion of the two genes fosters the growth of tumour cells. When they come together, the two genes activate protein PIN4, which increases the mitochondria activity.

Mitochondria play a very important role because they represent the power station of each cell. In case of tumours, mitochondria give more energy to cancer cells, fostering their development. The main achievement of the team directed by the two Italian scientists is their ability to fight these tumours through drugs inhibiting this fusion. By attacking the fusion between the two genes, it is possible to stop the growth of the tumour.

Some anti-mitochondria drugs are already used to fight certain diseases (like diabetes). Together with other targeted drugs, anti-mitochondria medications would definitely have outstanding results in the fight against glioblastoma and other kinds of tumours presenting the gene fusion FGFR3 and TACC3.

With this goal in mind, scientists are running clinic trials are going on at the Hospital Pitié Salpetrière in Paris, directed by Marc Sanson, to combine anti-mitochondria and target drugs interfering with the protein responsible for the genetic fusion.

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