New Genetic Markers May Diagnose Brain Cancer

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According to new findings published in the journal Oncotarget, researchers at the Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, have identified new genetic markers in "junk DNA" that could diagnose brain cancer.


The team studied germline sequences from the National Institutes of Health 1000 Genomes Project and the Cancer Genome Atlas to analyze microsatellites, or "junk DNA," which make up 1 million DNA sequence repeats in the human genome.


They found that patients with different stages of glioma showed noticeable and repeated genetic markers in their genomes for brain cancer.


The next step is to make a blood test that can detect these genetic markers but also differentiate between benign and malignant brain tumors. Patients with benign or less aggressive brain tumors would not need to undergo a biopsy, which is both expensive and risky.


According to the American Brain Tumor Association, 70,000 new patients were diagnosed with primary brain cancer in 2013. Brain cancer is also the second leading cancer-related cause of death in children. Biopsies are often done to diagnose brain cancer after using an MRI for detection; however, about 1% of patients that undergo a brain biopsy die and 7% have permanent neurological damage due to the procedure.

Genetic Signatures for Cancer are Making Headlines
Scientists have found a new way to diagnose based on genetic markers found in "junk DNA."

Scientists at Virginia Tech's Virginia Bioinformatics Institute working with the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's National Medical Center have found a new way to diagnose brain cancer based on genetic markers found in "junk DNA."

The finding, recently published in Oncotarget, could revolutionize the way doctors treat certain brain cancers.

Brain cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death in children. Overall, 70,000 new patients were diagnosed with primary brain tumors in 2013, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. However, only about a third turn out to be malignant.

Ordinarily, when a patient shows symptoms of a brain tumor, an MRI is performed to locate tumors, but it cannot determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant, often necessitating costly and occasionally dangerous or inconclusive biopsies.

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