Two new biomarkers have been discovered for neuroblastoma, a type of cancer in children. The findings are expected to have immediate significance for disease prognosis.
Neuroblastoma is the most common type of childhood cancer of the peripheral nervous system, the part that is not the brain or spinal cord.
It can occur in the neck, chest, abdomen and adrenal glands, as well as spread to the spinal column. Symptoms are general: aches, anaemia and skeletal pains.
The youngest it is detected is 17 months old on average and rarely over five years old.
There are milder variants of neuroblastoma which may heal on their own in some cases; however, aggressive cases are the deadliest form of childhood cancer. In half of these cases, treatment is less successful.
Chandrasekhar Kanduri, professor of medical biochemistry and cell biology at Sahlgrenska Academy, Sweden, says: “There is a need for new methods of treatment for high-risk patients, and that’s where our research can lead to truly great benefits.”
Identifying high-risk patients
The identification of high-risk patients is vital, and these new findings are set to help that. Thanks to the support of patient data from Germany (498 cases) and Sweden (59 cases), researchers have successfully identified two new types of RNA molecules that control the stability of tumour proteins.
Immediately following diagnosis, the strength of the three RNA molecules’ gene expression can be measured. With a stronger expression, there is less scope for a certain tumour-inducing protein to stabilise itself.
This also has to do with a tug of war between the identified RNA molecules (6p22 lncRNAs) and the specific protein (USP36) in which a reading of relative strength can contribute to a better disease prognosis. Researchers believe this points to a near-term application in healthcare.
‘New way for development of drugs’
Kanduri said: “Epigenetic drugs activate the RNA molecules in question and thereby forestall the tumour, and, in this way, it will be possible to go in and treat high-risk patients.
“Our findings pave the way for development of drugs in the field, and we have close collaboration with clinical researchers in both Sweden and Germany.”
Source: Sahlgrenska Academy