Singapore, 1 June, 2012 - A joint study by researchers at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), National University of Singapore (NUS), and Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), A*STAR, has uncovered the role of a new tumour suppressor – known as parkin – in brain cancer that promises to shed insights into why certain brain tumours are more aggressive than others.
This multi-institutional collaborative work, led by Associate Professor Lim Kah Leong at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology, and Dr Carol Tang, Research Scientist at NNI together with Associate Professor Ang Beng Ti, Consultant at the Department of Neurosurgery at NNI and Senior Principal Investigator at SICS, was published recently in the May 15 issue of Cancer Research, a leading international cancer journal.
Forming the majority of adult malignant brain tumours, gliomas affect a significant number of individuals globally, including here in Singapore. The NNI sees about 50 new cases of malignant glioma each year and continues to manage its existing glioma caseload by means of a multi-disciplinary neuro-oncology clinic. The prognosis for the majority of these tumours remains grim, particularly for patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive form of brain tumour. The late Senator Edward Kennedy was reportedly afflicted with this malignant form of glioma. Senator Kennedy died 15 months after his diagnosis. For reasons yet unclear, others readily succumbed to the disease within a much shorter time. Interestingly, the study showed that the level of parkin expression in glioma cells can determine the survival outcome and disease progression of patients, i.e. those who have high parkin expression in their cancer cells tend to survive longer with lower tumor grades than their parkin-deficient counterparts.
“With this understanding, instead of generalising malignant brain cancer patients, we can now differentiate their tumours based on their molecular characteristics” commented A/Prof Lim and Dr Tang. Agreeing, A/Prof Ang added, “This is significant as the stratification would allow us to formulate the most appropriate treatment for each patient.”
Importantly, the investigators also found that the restoration of parkin expression in parkin-deficient cells can slow down their proliferation rate and decrease their tumour size significantly. They are currently testing drugs that can mimic parkin’s protective function against the aggression of brain tumours.
The study is funded by research grants from the Khoo Teck Puat Foundation and Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, A*STAR.
Other key authors of the study are Mr Yeo Wee Sing, a graduate student at NUS Department of Physiology and Ms Felicia Ng, a bioinformatician previously at the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, A*STAR.
For more information, please contact:
Ms Michelle Ho
Executive, Corporate Communications
National Neuroscience Institute
Tel (DID): 6357 7163 Fax: 6256 4755
About the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI)
The National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) is the national and regional centre of excellence for treatment, education and research in the neurosciences. It offers over 20 clinical subspecialties and treats a broad range of illnesses affecting the brain, spine, nerve and muscle. The NNI sees the most number of neurological cases in Singapore, providing clinical services to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Changi General Hospital and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
About the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM)
Established in 1905, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine was the first institution of higher learning in Singapore and the genesis of what would become the National University of Singapore. The School offers one of the finest undergraduate medical programs in the Asia Pacific region and commands international recognition and respect. In 2011, the School was ranked the top university in Asia for medicine, and was placed 18th Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).
From Academic Year 2009 to 2010, the School has an intake of 260 new students for the July admission. The School strives to fulfil its tripartite mission of providing excellent clinical care, training the next generation of healthcare professionals, and fostering research that will transform the practice of medicine. It plays a pivotal role in producing future leaders in healthcare delivery, discovery and public service as well as in Singapore’s Biomedical Sciences Initiative and Singapore Medicine, a medical tourism initiative.
The School’s 17 departments in the basic sciences and clinical specialties work closely with the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, the Centre for Biomedical Ethics, and the Centre of Excellence for Health Services Research to ensure that teaching and research are aligned and relevant to Singapore’s healthcare needs.
About the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS)
Established in 2007, the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) is a research institute within the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and its mission is to develop disease-oriented clinical and translational research programmes in key disease areas.
SICS is distinguished by its focus on clinical sciences and the use of innovative approaches and technologies that enable the efficient and effective study of human health and diseases. The clinical scientists in SICS conduct the full spectrum of “bench to bedside” research activities in metabolic diseases (including diabetes/obesity/insulin resistance), pathways to normal growth and development (including cognitive and behavioural development), nutritional sciences as well as in certain viral infectious diseases such as chronic viral diseases.
The institute aims to attract, train and nurture clinician-scientists and to develop joint programs with universities, academic medical centres, government hospitals, and research institutes.
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
A*STAR is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and six consortia and centres, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their immediate vicinity.
A*STAR supports Singapore’s key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local and international partners.