Single cell RNA-seq study of primary glioblastoma featured in the Boston Globe

Anoop Patel, Mario Suvà, Shawn Gillespie with Itay Tirosh from the Regev lab and co-authors have described in new detail tumor heterogeneity in primary glioblastoma. The study, published this week in Science, shows the diverse set of transcriptional profiles that are present in primary tumors.

The Boston Globe featured the study and brings it to a point:

“This may be to my knowledge the first study that tried to do this carefully within individual cells from human tumors and it is a bummer, because this is why cancer is so hard to cure,” said Sean Morrison, director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern. “It’s a different battle in every patient in some ways. And this heterogeneity is why the best ideas we often have will kill 90 percent of the cells and leave the other 10 percent behind.”

Read the full paper here:
Anoop P. Patel, Itay Tirosh, John J. Trombetta, Alex K. Shalek, Shawn M. Gillespie, Hiroaki Wakimoto, Daniel P. Cahill, Brian V. Nahed, William T. Curry, Robert L. Martuza, David N. Louis, Orit Rozenblatt-Rosen, Mario L. Suvà, Aviv Regev, and Bradley E. Bernstein. (2014). Single-cell RNA-seq highlights intratumoral heterogeneity in primary glioblastoma. Science . doi:10.1126/science.1254257

Suvà et al. describe four transcription factors key to glioblastoma tumor propogation

Mario Suvà, Esther Rheinbay, Shawn Gillespie, and Anoop Patel from this lab and colleagues have discovered a set of key transcription factors underlying glioblastoma stem-like cells.

From the Broad blog:

Glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer in adults, remains effectively incurable. Evidence suggests that “stem-like” cells help drive this difficult-to-treat disease. These cells may possess properties that give them the ability to resist treatment and drive cancer’s growth, but pinpointing them and understanding the circuitry that makes them behave the way they do has been a major challenge.

Now, through the lens of epigenomics, researchers are gaining a clearer picture of the core set of switches that can turn a cancer cell into an aggressive glioblastoma stem cell capable of driving a tumor’s growth. Instead of focusing on genetics, the research team has found that by flipping epigenetic switches that alter gene activity, they can control a tumor cell’s aggressive behavior by making it regress into a stem-cell-like state.

“The code is fairly simple,” says Mario Suvà, a Broad associated scientist and a faculty member at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s a difference of four transcription factors: that’s all it takes to switch from a non-aggressive brain tumor cell to a very aggressive brain tumor cell.”

Read the full paper in Cell: Suvà M et al. “Reconstructing and reprogramming the tumor propagating potential of glioblastoma stem-like cells.” Cell April 10, 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.02.030.