Grant supports Massey brain cancer collaboration

VCU Massey Cancer Center Investigator Devanand Sarkar, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine was recently awarded a five-year grant totaling $450,000 by the James S. McDonnell Foundation to analyze a gene linked to brain cancer. The foundation awards grants via a highly-selective, peer-review process that seeks out innovative scientific research with real-world applications.

The grant provides funding to analyze the role of Astrocyte Elevated Gene-1 (AEG-1) in malignant glioma, or cancerous brain cells. AEG-1 is a gene discovered only in 2002, in the laboratory of Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, Director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and Chair in Cancer Research at VCU Massey Cancer Center, and has been identified by Drs. Sarkar and Fisher to promote the development and progression of a variety of cancers by modulating cellular processes responsible for tumor growth. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an extremely aggressive brain cancer, is largely resistant to current chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, and so invasive in normal brain tissue that cells are always left behind after surgery. Prior research has shown significantly-higher-than-average AEG-1 expression in more than 90 percent of brain cancer patients, most suffering from GBM. Additionally, previous studies have shown that when AEG-1 expression was inhibited, there was a marked decrease in invading capacity of GBM cells.

The role of AEG-1 in GBM development and progression and normal brain functions will be investigated using a knockout mouse model. If successful, these studies will provide new insight on the function of AEG-1 and help guide future brain cancer research and treatments.