For Regina Golan-Gerstl, a postdoctoral fellow at the Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine, the fight against brain cancer has been close-up and personal because her mother died of the disease.
She has now identified a genetic protein that is directly implicated in the development of the most prevalent brain cancer–glioblastoma. Initially working in the specialty of pulmonology with Senior Hadassah Prof. Raphael Breuer, researching how cells communicate with one another, Dr. Golan-Gerstl switched to studying brain cancer when her mother became ill. There is a mechanism called “splicing,” she says, where elements of RNA (ribonucleic acid) are cut and recombined like sections of movie film. When a person is sick, Dr. Golan-Gerstl explains, the splicing mechanism doesn’t work in the same way. An alternative splicing occurs, thanks to a genetic protein which becomes an activist in the development of cancer.
She and her team have found that when the action of this gene is turned off, tumors in mice decrease in size. Dr. Golan-Gerstl adds that their first success has been with brain cancer. Further investigation is taking place with other metastatic cancers, such as breast cancer. Tackling the problem with colleagues in Hadassah’s Neuro-Oncology Department, Dr. Golan-Gerstl relates that they are “working on shutting it down at a molecular level.”
Michael Klipper, Chair of Voices Against Brain Cancer, an organization dedicated to brain cancer research and advocacy, comments on the organization’s website that “this discovery is comforting for those who are and who have been affected by this horrible disease. For one, it shows them that there are dedicated scientists and researchers who are working around the clock to put an end to this horrible disease. And two, it gives them hope that there actually will one day be a cure for brain cancer.”