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Researchers believe they've made a breakthrough discovery in fighting brain cancer

Posted at 1:11 PM, Dec 10, 2018

TUCSON, Ariz. — A team of researchers at the University of Arizona believe they've found an important clue in the fight against an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Glioblastoma is the cancer that killed Sen. John McCain in August and Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009.

People are diagnosed with glioblastoma live, on average, for another 11 to 15 months. Very few survive the disease, so the group of researchers wanted to know why some patients live longer than others.

Professor of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Baldassarre Stea, says the clue lies in the RNA of short and long-term patients.

The team looked at the genetic variation in about three dozen patients.

What they found is a gene called WIF1 is distinctly higher in patients who survive longer, according to Dr. Stea. Those who lack the gene succumb to the disease much quicker.


The group hopes this gene testing can be used for indicating how much treatment is needed.

"We hope to use this test as a predictor," Stea said. "Who will survive longer and who will survive less. Who needs to get more treatment, who needs to get less treatment. That's one thing. And the second thing we intend to do with it is use it for therapeutic purposes."

Dr. Stea says they hope to expand testing to about 200 patients and eventually help patients with glioblastoma live longer.