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Folic Acid Supplement Can Modify Epigenome In Severe Brain Tumors

An early-stage clinical trial has revealed that a drug, L-methylfolate, which is like folic acid, when administered along with the standard therapy for patients suffering from recurrent glioblastoma, changed the DNA process of their brain tumors.

Researchers at the Vanderbitt-Ingram Cancer Center discovered that for the first-time ever, the DNA methylome of brain tumors can be reprogrammed.

According to researchers, the DNA methylome is just one aspect of the epigenome, which is a modification of DNA and proteins in the cell, which is influenced by the environment. DNA methylation is one such modification, where methyl groups are added to the human DNA and is a mechanism, which controls the gene expression, like the silencing or activation of genes related to cancer.

Researchers studied if the re-methylation of IDH wild-type tumors, which has a worse prognosis and lower DNA methylation than IDH mutant tumors, could improve the rate of survival. They were successful in showing that the DNA methylome of IDH wild-type, high-grade gliomas could be reprogrammed, but the people surveyed for the study were less in number to draw any definitive conclusion.

Commenting on the research, Stephen Clark, assistant professor of Neurology in the Division of Neuro-Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said, "This is an important first step in understanding how we can manipulate the epigenome, and hopefully, this study will help design future epigenetic studies in glioblastoma treatment."

Although the study group of 14 patients was not large enough to get a statistically significant survival advantage, the patients treated with the folic acid supplement L-methylfolate had a median overall survival of 9.5 months, compared to the typical median overall survival of 8.6 months. One of the patients is still surviving.

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