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Repurposing Anti-Depressant Medication to Target Medulloblastoma

Update Date: Aug 25, 2014 10:52 AM EDT

Researchers have reported a novel molecular pathway that causes an aggressive form of medulloblastoma. 

According to the study, repurposing an anti-depressant medication to target the new pathway may help combat one of the most common brain cancers in children. 

The study findings could lead to a more targeted and effective molecular therapy that would also reduce the harmful side effects of current treatments. 

"Although current treatments improve survival rates, patients suffer severe side effects and relapse tumors carry mutations that resist treatment," said lead investigator Q. Richard Lu, PhD, scientific director of the Brain Tumor Center, part of the CBDI at Cincinnati Children's, in the press release. "This underscores an urgent need for alternative targeted therapies, and we have identified a potent tumor suppressor that could help a subset of patients with an aggressive form of medulloblastoma."

Researchers used genetically-engineered mice to model human medulloblastoma. With the help of the model, they identified a gene called GNAS, that encodes a protein called Gsa. Gsa kicks off a signaling cascade that researchers found suppresses the initiation of an aggressive form of medulloblastoma driven by a protein called Sonic hedgehog, press release added.

Researchers said a significant amount of additional research is needed before their findings could become directly relevant to clinical treatment. 

The study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine. 

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