A Columbia University team has identified a genetic abnormality that causes some cancers, including glioblastoma. At the base of the disease is the fusion of the FGFR3 and TACC3 genes. The phenomenon leads to the increase of mitochondria, which causes the uncontrolled multiplication of cancer cells. According to the researchers, interfering with the abnormal activity of the mitochondria could stop the progress of the tumors.
The discovery is based on a study published in the journal Science in 2012. The same team had shown that 3% of patients with glioblastoma show the fusion of FGFR3-TACC3. In the new study, the researchers showed the beneficial effect of the mitochondria-inducing drugs that stop energy production. However, the repercussions of the discovery go beyond the treatment of glioblastoma.
The same genetic fusion is present with similar percentages even in those affected by cancer of the pom poms, the esophagus, the breast and many others. It is probable that the genetic mutation of FGFR3-TACC3 is the most widespread in cancer among those identified to date. This means that the discovery could help combat not only glioblastoma, but also other cancers. In animal models with fusion of FGFR3-TACC3 genes, inhibition of mitochondrial metabolism halted tumor growth. Guinea pigs treated with drugs to inhibit mitochondria and to inhibit FGFR3-TACC3 showed higher levels of glioblastoma survival.
According to various studies, blocking the enzymatic activity of gene fusion is enough to stop the tumor. Over time, however, the tumor becomes drug resistant and tends to return. Adding drugs that inhibit mitochondrial metabolism could help solve the problem.