An international research team reports in Nature Medicine a novel molecular pathway that causes an aggressive form of medulloblastoma, and suggests repurposing an anti-depressant medication to target the new pathway may help combat one of the most common brain cancers in children.
The multi-institutional group, led by scientists at Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute (CBDI) at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, publish their results in the journal's online edition on Aug. 24. The researchers suggest their laboratory findings in mouse models of the disease could lead to a more targeted and effective molecular therapy that would also reduce the harmful side effects of current treatments, which include chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
"Although current treatments improve survival rates, patients suffer severe side effects and relapse tumors carry mutations that resist treatment," said lead investigator Q. Richard Lu, PhD, scientific director of the Brain Tumor Center, part of the CBDI at Cincinnati Children's. "This underscores an urgent need for alternative targeted therapies, and we have identified a potent tumor suppressor that could help a subset of patients with an aggressive form of medulloblastoma."
Using genetically-engineered mice to model human medulloblastoma, the authors identified a gene called GNAS that encodes a protein called Gsa. Gsa kicks off a signaling cascade that researchers found suppresses the initiation of an aggressive form of medulloblastoma driven by a protein called Sonic hedgehog – considered one of the most important molecules in tissue formation and development.
The scientists used an anti-depressant medication called Rolipram – approved for behavioral therapy for use in Europe and Japan – to treat mice that were engineered not to express the GNAS gene. Lack of GNAS allowed aggressive formation of medulloblastoma tumors in neural progenitor cells of the GNAS mutant mice.
Rolipram treatment in the mice elevated levels of a molecule called cAMP, which restored the GNAS-Gsa pathway's tumor suppression function. This caused the tumors to shrink and subside. The study also suggests that elevating cAMP levels in cells enhances the potency of Sonic hedgehog inhibitors, currently being tested in clinical trials to fight tumor growth.
The scientists stressed that a significant amount of additional research is needed before their findings could become directly relevant to clinical treatment. The authors also caution that the effect of raising cAMP levels may depend on the type of cancer, and that laboratory results in mice do not always translate uniformly to humans.
Collaborating on the study with Dr. Lu was first author, Xuelian He (MD, a postdoctoral fellow), of the CBDI at Cincinnati Children's and the West China Second Hospital, Sichuan University, in Chengdu, China.
Other collaborating institutions include: The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto; Department of Pathology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas; Department of Pathology, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea; the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH); Department of Neurology, Children's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis; departments of Pediatrics, Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis; Tumor Development Program, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif.
Funding support came in part from the National Institutes of Health (R01NS078092, R01NS075243) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
About Cincinnati Children's:
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report's 2014 Best Children's Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children's, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org. Connect on the Cincinnati Children's blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.
Nick Miller | Eurek Alert!
Obstructing the ‘inner eye’
07.07.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy