Research Matters

Research Matters

Brain Tumor Research


Natalie Ciaccio has shown that hindering a protein called ATF5 killed cancerous brain cells - without harming surrounding, healthy brain tissue.

Aired April 5, 2009


2 minutes 3.7 MB) | Download mp3

Transcript

LAWRENCE -A researcher has found what could be an ideal target for an anti-cancer drug therapy, focusing her work on brain tumors. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Natalie Ciaccio has shown that hindering a protein called ATF5 killed cancerous brain cells - without harming surrounding, healthy brain tissue. Today, the graduate student in pharmaceutical chemistry is working to better understand the structure of ATF5.

Ciaccio: It's known that ATF5 is required for brain development, but once we have adult brains and they're fully developed, we don't detect any ATF5 present in adult normal brains. Somehow the instruction for the gene that regulates ATF5 gets turned on when it's not supposed to be on anymore. And maybe that's why we have high levels of ATF5 in the cancer. Then these cells start to grow uncontrollably - and that results in cancer.

Producing ATF5 with genetically modified bacteria and studying its makeup, Ciaccio hopes to find a way to stop the protein from advancing cancer. She says the work is at least a decade from resulting in a drug that could help patients.

Ciaccio: We're the first group to ever isolate it and study its structure at all. But just because there remains a lot of work to be done but just because there's a lot of work that remains too be done doesn't mean it is not worth pursuing., We're sort of more on the end of basic research. So it takes investment, it takes times. But certainly the long-term achievements that are possible make it worthwhile.

In 2008, there were more than 21 thousand diagnoses of brain tumors and related disorders in the U.S. alone, leading to some 13 thousand deaths. Worse, brain tumors are the leading cause of solid tumor death in children. Ciaccio says improvements are needed in how we take care of such patients.

"The current protocol of treatment involves major brain surgery to remove the tumor, followed by radiation and some type of chemo. These can have terrible side effects and make you sick. So for patients, not only do they only have 12 to 18 months to live, but they can be very ill during that last year. So we'd like to find treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects."

To learn more about ATF5, log on to Research Matters dot KU dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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Brain Tumor Research

A graduate student in pharmaceutical chemistry spearheads the first group in the world to isolate and study ATF5 - a promising cancer drug target.

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