Affiliated faculty of Neuroscience Zhi Sheng, assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and his team, have identified a new therapeutic target to treat glioblastoma, the most devastating and common form of brain cancer.

“Patients with glioblastoma survive for less than 15 months from diagnosis on average, even following brain surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy,” said Zhi Sheng, an assistant professor at the VTCRI and senior author on both papers. “More than 90 percent of the patients who survive more than two years after their first treatments develop tumor recurrence. Unfortunately, these patients are often not eligible for a second brain surgery, and the recurrent tumors become resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.”

Sheng and his team previously identified 20 genes that are important for glioblastoma cells to persist. From those genes, they found a particular class responsible for coding proteins that regulate how cellular signaling pathways transmit external messages into the cells. The level of these proteins can be used as biomarkers for predicting the occurrence and prognosis of recurrent glioblastoma.

“Our research demonstrates that patients with glioblastoma who have a greater chance of tumor recurrence often express this class of genes and proteins at high levels,” Sheng said.

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