The University of California, San Francisco, announcedThursday that it has received $950,000 from the NationalInstitutes of Health to help establish a pediatric brain tumorresearch center. The purpose is to use leading technologies --including gene therapy -- to reach some fundamentalunderstanding of childhood brain tumors, and to create ways tocare for the afflicted children.

While brain tumors in adults are relatively rare, in childrenthey are not only common, but also the most deadly ofchildhood cancers, according to Mark Israel, a professor ofneurological surgery and pediatrics and one of the principalinvestigators on the NIH grant.

Researchers know there are other differences between adultand pediatric brain tumors, but "it's not clear what the basis ofthose differences is," Israel told BioWorld. "They occur indifferent parts of the brain, they look different under themicroscope, and many of them behave differently. Adult braintumors are localized, but pediatric ones spread. ... Theseobvious clinical differences predict a difference in thepathogenesis.

"Our goal is to use the techniques of recombinant DNA researchto identify the key alterations in cells that lead to brain tumorsand to target those changes in developing new therapies,"Israel said.

Such therapies may come from research at UCSF and thepediatric brain tumor research center-to-be on identifying themolecular markers, genes or proteins that define pediatrictumor types. Such markers may even serve as highly specifictargets for new drug therapies, Israel said.

Moreover, researchers led by William Mobley will determinewhether brain tumor cells can be induced to mature intospecific cell types and to stop growing in response toneurotrophins. And David Cox's team at UCSF is slated to trackdown any tumor suppressor genes associated with pediatricbrain tumors.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.