The work, a collaboration between the Institute for Molecular Medicine, the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology and the cancer center's Sarcoma Program, could lead to the development of new therapies that target the cell signaling pathway regulated by PTEN.
A novel mouse model of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) developed at UCLA first illustrated the importance of PTEN tumor suppressor in malignant transformation and this finding was validated in human malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, the deadly sarcomas.
The study will be published this week in the early online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The loss of expression of PTEN in the human sarcomas we studied mirrored the loss of PTEN in mice, and we anticipate being able to target this pathway abnormality for the development of new methods of diagnosis and treatment" said Dr. Fritz Eilber, director of the Sarcoma Program and an assistant professor of surgical oncology. "Within the sarcoma world, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors are one of the most lethal sub-types, so this is a significant finding and may lead to new and more effective treatments."
NF1 is one of the most common genetically inherited disorders, with an incidence of about 1 in every 2,500 births, said, Dr. Hong Wu, associate director of the molecular medicine institute, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and senior author of the study.
"Patients with NF1 have an about 10 percent lifetime risk of developing this lethal sarcoma sub-type," Wu said.
The study also showed that Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning with the glucose analogue FDG - both in the mice and in humans - is a highly accurate way to distinguish between the benign tumors and the malignant ones, indicating that this non-invasive imaging technology is valuable in assessing therapeutic response to new treatments.
Wu created the mouse model with two of her graduate students, Caroline Gregorian and Jonathan Nakashima, co-first authors of this paper. It was created by altering two cell signaling pathways that are commonly activated in peripheral and central nervous system cancers, the RAS/RAF/MAPK & PTEN/P13K/AKT pathways, known to regulate cell proliferation, survival and differentiation.
"When we began to generate mouse models to mimic different human cancers, we usually did gene-based analysis to see the relevance of a specific gene in the development of the cancer," Wu said. "But we realize that sometimes targeting the cell signaling pathways that organize and instruct cells to function, both for normal functions of our body and also in abnormal ways in disease, are more important and informative than the individual gene"
The mouse model developed benign neurofibromas, but then progressed to the deadly sub-type of sarcoma. The neurofibromas had half the normal levels of PTEN and the sarcomas had a complete loss of PTEN. Since PTEN is an important factor in suppressing cells from becoming malignant, this could provide an explanation for the sequence of the normal cells transforming into benign neurofibromas that could then transform into cancer.
Wondering if this was also the case in people, Dr. Wu collaborated with Eilber and pathologist Dr. Sarah Dry, director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine's Pathway Pathology Center, and a multidisciplinary team of physician-scientists to determine if people with this sarcoma sub-type also had little or no PTEN.
"This type of collaboration is the hallmark of the work at the Jonsson Cancer Center and molecular medicine institute - translating discoveries in a basic science lab into discoveries in patients," Wu said.
Currently, there are no effective treatments to prevent the benign NF1 tumors from transforming into cancer. The genetically engineered mouse model will be used to screen drugs that may be able to target the signaling pathway regulated by PTEN, to block signals that instruct the cells to change from a benign state to a malignant one, providing treatment options for patients with the deadly form of cancer.
"I think these findings will help us provide a better diagnosis that can determine if the neurofibroma is becoming a malignant tumor or not," Eilber said. "But more importantly, the loss of the PTEN and its associated signaling pathways gives us targets for therapy and it may lay the foundation for treatment in other sarcomas as well."
Also involved in the research were Dr. Paul Mischel, Dr. Simin Liu, Dr. Phioanh Leia Nghiemphu, Dr. Greg Lawson, Dr. Michael Sofroniew and Dr. Michael Phelps, director of the molecular medicine institute and creator of the PET scanner
The study was funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society, the Brain Tumor Society, the Henry Singleton Brain Cancer Research Program and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.
UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2009, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 12 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 10 consecutive years.
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy