Tumor mechanism identified

February 22, 2010, The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry

Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth (UK), the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Cornell University in New York, Weil Medical College in New York and the Center for Neural Tumour Research in Los Angeles, have for the first time identified a key mechanism that makes certain cells become tumorous in the brain. The resulting tumours occur most often spontaneously but can also occur in numbers as part of the inherited disease Neurofibromatosis type 2.

The research is published in the highly respected journal, Cell.

The tumours are caused by mutations affecting a protein called Merlin, which in turn causes cancers in a range of cell types including Schwann cells. Schwann cells produce the sheaths that surround and insulate neurons.

The new research investigates for the first time the role of Merlin in the . It explains how Merlin regulates , and how it regulates . Normally Merlin inhibits the development of tumours at a cell nucleus level - mutations affecting Merlin affect its ability to inhibit. By understanding this mechanism for the first time, the way is open for the development of effective therapies for a condition in which no treatment other than surgery exists.

In neurofibromatosis 2 the sheer number of the tumours can overwhelm a patient, often leading to severe disability and eventually death. Patients can suffer from 20 to 30 tumours at any one time, and the condition typically affects older children and young adults.

No therapy, other than invasive (radio)surgery aiming at a single and which may not eradicate the full extent of the tumours, exists.

The condition of multiple tumours , neurofibromatosis type two (NF2), affects one in every 2,500 people worldwide. It can affect any family, regardless of past history, through and currently there is no cure.

Professor Oliver Hanemann, who led the research from the Peninsula Medical School, commented: "This has been an exciting collaboration with colleagues in the United States resulting in a landmark publication. Until now, there has been no meaningful work on the role of Merlin in the nucleus. The results of our research show a greater understanding of the fundamental part played by Merlin in the repression of tumorous cells, and how this part is undermined when the protein is mutated. Identification of the difference in mechanisms will allow us to develop therapies for the future."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study tracks evolutionary transition to destructive cancer

February 23, 2018
Evolution describes how all living forms cope with challenges in their environment, as they struggle to persevere against formidable odds. Mutation and selective pressure—cornerstones of Darwin's theory—are the means ...

Researchers use a molecular Trojan horse to deliver chemotherapeutic drug to cancer cells

February 23, 2018
A research team at the University of California, Riverside has discovered a way for chemotherapy drug paclitaxel to target migrating, or circulating, cancer cells, which are responsible for the development of tumor metastases.

Lab-grown 'mini tumours' could personalise cancer treatment

February 23, 2018
Testing cancer drugs on miniature replicas of a patient's tumour could help doctors tailor treatment, according to new research.

An under-the-radar immune cell shows potential in fight against cancer

February 23, 2018
One of the rarest of immune cells, unknown to scientists a decade ago, might prove to be a potent weapon in stopping cancer from spreading in the body, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Putting black skin cancer to sleep—for good

February 22, 2018
An international research team has succeeded in stopping the growth of malignant melanoma by reactivating a protective mechanism that prevents tumor cells from dividing. The team used chemical agents to block the enzymes ...

Cancer risk associated with key epigenetic changes occurring through normal aging process

February 22, 2018
Some scientists have hypothesized that tumor-promoting changes in cells during cancer development—particularly an epigenetic change involving DNA methylation—arise from rogue cells escaping a natural cell deterioration ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.