Brain cancer and leukemia: new molecular mechanisms decoded

IRM of a brain's tumor.

IRM of a brain's tumor.

Credit: Thinkstock

In 5 seconds

A joint research published today in Nature Communications has shown new molecular causes of brain cancer and leukemia.

Brain cancer and leukemia are two potentially fatal diseases that affect thousands of Canadians each year. But a joint study conducted by researchers Frederick Antoine Mallette, of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Centre and the University of Montreal, and Marc-Étienne Huot, of Laval University, and published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications has uncovered new molecular causes of brain cancer and leukemia.

We already knew the existence of a mutation phenomenon involving certain metabolic enzymes called isocitrate dehydrogenases 1 and 2 (IDH1/2) in various forms of brain cancer, including gliomas and glioblastomas, and in acute myeloid leukemia. Although the mutated forms of IDH1/2 appear to contribute to cancer formation, until now we had only limited understanding of the ways in which these metabolic defects caused cancer. Research conducted by Mélissa Carbonneau, a master’s student in Professor Mallette’s laboratory, has helped to better understand the effect of IDH1/2 mutations in cancer by demonstrating their role in activating the pathways involved in cell proliferation and survival.

“With the identification of the molecular modes of action that contribute to cancer in patients carrying IDH1/2 mutations, it is now possible to consider personalized treatment to potentially improve therapeutic response,” said Dr. Mallette.

Some statistics

It is estimated that in 2015, 3,000 Canadians were diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancer, and 6,200 Canadians were diagnosed with leukemia.

Research funding

The study was conducted with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canada Research Chairs program, the Cole Foundation, the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Centre, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé.

About the CIUSSS de l'Est-de l'Île-de-Montréal

The Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal (CIUSSS-Est) includes Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Santa Cabrini Hospital, the Canadian-Polish Welfare Institute, the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, and the Saint-Léonard, Saint-Michel, Pointe-de-l'Île, and Lucille-Teasdale Health and Social Service Centres (CSSSs). Affiliated with the University of Montreal, the CIUSSS-Est combines the missions of teaching, assessment, and research of doctors and health professionals with excellence in health care delivery.

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