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Gap in the Defense: Brain cancer patients short on valuable protein

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9:50am, March 17, 2004

Brain-tumor cells have a dearth of an obscure protein whose sister compounds have shown anticancer effects, scientists report in the March 18 Nature.

The protein is called p29 or ING4, shorthand for inhibitor of growth. After earlier research had indicated that a related protein, ING1, has antitumor properties, scientists became interested in other members of the ING family. By scanning various tumor cells taken from patients, Igor Garkavtsev of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston noticed that brain cancer and kidney cancer cells seemed deficient in ING4. His team has initially focused on the brain cells.

Garkavtsev and his colleagues closely examined 50 brain tumors called gliomas, the most common brain cancer. They concluded that cells from slow-growing cancers had only one-half to one-third as much ING4 protein as did healthy brain cells. Cells from aggressive tumors, called glioblastomas, had only one-sixth as much.

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