Scientists Discover Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Cancer

Researchers working at the Texas Advanced Computing Center uncover a common signal pathway that triggers both diseases. 

A team of Scientists led by the Houston Methodist Research Institute used supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to discover a common signal pathway that links Alzheimer’s disease with an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiform (GBM).
Cells regulate growth and reproduction by sending signals along pathways from the receptors to the genetic material in the nucleus. The study used the Lonestar and Stampede HPC systems, which are part of the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) network, to analyze the data from thousands of genes to look for common pathways that would indicate a link between the two common and deadly diseases. Interestingly enough, the clue that led to the research is the recent discovery of an inverse association between Alzheimer's and GBM--the presence of one seems to indicate the absence of the other. The team guessed that this either/or quality could indicate that the diseases are triggered through a common signal pathway, and the process of triggering one rules out the possibility of the other. Lead investigator Stephen Wong explains, "We identified when one signal pathway is up, it is good for one thing and bad for the other."
Identifying the signal pathway that triggers these diseases could one day lead to more effective drug treatments. According to National Cancer Institute Deputy Director Dan Gallahan, "This work of Dr. Wong's is quite exciting in that it shows connections between two of the most intractable diseases in modern society. And while our focus is on cancer, the great hope is that as we make these connections, we can leverage that knowledge to find new targets and opportunities that can provide meaningful intervention for other diseases."