Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Longer telomeres linked to risk of brain cancer: Double-edged sword, gene variants may promote overall health while increasing risk of gliomas

Date:
June 8, 2014
Source:
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
Summary:
New genomic research reveals that two common gene variants that lead to longer telomeres, the caps on chromosome ends thought by many scientists to confer health by protecting cells from aging, also significantly increase the risk of developing the deadly brain cancers known as gliomas.

New genomic research led by UC San Francisco (UCSF) scientists reveals that two common gene variants that lead to longer telomeres, the caps on chromosome ends thought by many scientists to confer health by protecting cells from aging, also significantly increase the risk of developing the deadly brain cancers known as gliomas.

The genetic variants, in two telomere-related genes known as TERT and TERC, are respectively carried by 51 percent and 72 percent of the general population. Because it is somewhat unusual for such risk-conferring variants to be carried by a majority of people, the researchers propose that in these carriers the overall cellular robustness afforded by longer telomeres trumps the increased risk of high-grade gliomas, which are invariably fatal but relatively rare cancers.

The research was published online in Nature Genetics on June 8, 2014.

"There are clearly high barriers to developing gliomas, perhaps because the brain has special protection," said Margaret Wrensch, MPH, PhD, the Stanley D. Lewis and Virginia S. Lewis Endowed Chair in Brain Tumor Research at UCSF and senior author of the new study. "It's not uncommon for people diagnosed with glioma to comment, 'I've never been sick in my life.'"

In a possible example of this genetic balancing act between risks and benefits of telomere length, in one dataset employed in the current study -- a massive genomic analysis of telomere length in nearly 40,000 individuals conducted at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom -- shorter telomeres were associated with a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Though longer telomeres might be good for you as a whole person, reducing many health risks and slowing aging, they might also cause some cells to live longer than they're supposed to, which is one of the hallmarks of cancer," said lead author Kyle M. Walsh, PhD, assistant professor of neurological surgery and a member of the Program in Cancer Genetics at UCSF's Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In the first phase of the new study, researchers at UCSF and The Mayo Clinic College of Medicine analyzed genome-wide data from 1,644 glioma patients and 7,736 healthy control individuals, including some who took part in The Cancer Genome Atlas project sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and National Human Genome Research Institute. This work confirmed a link between TERT and gliomas that had been made in previous UCSF research, and also identified TERC as a glioma risk factor for the first time.

Since both genes have known roles in regulating the action of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains telomere length, the research team combed the University of Leicester data, and they found that the same TERT and TERC variants associated with glioma risk were also associated with greater telomere length.

UCSF's Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her pioneering work on telomeres and telomerase, an area of research she began in the mid-1970s. In the ensuing decades, untangling the relationships between telomere length and disease has proved to be complex.

In much research, longer telomeres have been considered a sign of health -- for example, Blackburn and others have shown that individuals exposed to chronic stressful experiences have shortened telomeres. But because cancer cells promote their own longevity by maintaining telomere length, drug companies have searched for drugs to specifically target and block telomerase in tumors in the hopes that cancer cells will accumulate genetic damage and die.

Walsh said the relevance of the new research should extend beyond gliomas, since TERT variants have also been implicated in lung, prostate, testicular and breast cancers, and TERC variants in leukemia, colon cancer and multiple myeloma. Variants in both TERT and TERC have been found to increase risk of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive disease of the lungs.

In some of these cases, the disease-associated variants promote longer telomeres, and in others shorter telomeres, suggesting that "both longer and shorter telomere length may be pathogenic, depending on the disease under consideration," the authors write.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The original article was written by Pete Farley. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). "Longer telomeres linked to risk of brain cancer: Double-edged sword, gene variants may promote overall health while increasing risk of gliomas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140608152542.htm>.
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). (2014, June 8). Longer telomeres linked to risk of brain cancer: Double-edged sword, gene variants may promote overall health while increasing risk of gliomas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140608152542.htm
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). "Longer telomeres linked to risk of brain cancer: Double-edged sword, gene variants may promote overall health while increasing risk of gliomas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140608152542.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

AFP (July 18, 2014) Contaminated water in South Africa's northwestern town of Bloemhof kills three babies and hospitalises over 500 people. The incident highlights growing fears over water safety in South Africa. Duration: 02:22 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins