Step towards treatment for childhood cancer

Australian research has moved one step closer to developing a more effective treatment for a cancer which commonly affects very young children.

Archa Fox
Dr Archa Fox

Neuroblastoma is a solid tumour which often originates in the adrenal glands but can also develop in nerve tissues, forming a lump in the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis of the child.

A team of Australian researchers, including Dr Archa Fox, who leads the Perkins’ Cancer Gene Regulation laboratory, had their findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in July.

“We’ve been trying to understand what causes Neuroblastoma and we’ve known for some time that a gene called N-Myc, which is commonly increased in Neuroblastoma, is an important driver in pushing cells towards that cancerous state,” Dr Fox said.

“We’ve now identified two new players which also feed on each other to drive the cancer cell growth. One is a regulator of gene expression and the other is a protein called NonO, which my lab has spent several years researching.”

Dr Fox says the study showed strong evidence that it would be good to develop drugs which would target NonO, in order to inhibit the molecular interactions causing the tumour.

“What’s exciting to me is we already know so much about NonO because we’ve recently developed a 3-D structure of this protein. Now we can look at developing drugs which will target NonO and hopefully treat this childhood cancer,” she said.

Current Neuroblastoma treatments are not always effective and children with high risk disease have a poor chance of surviving the cancer.

The study was led by researcher Dr Tao Liu from the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia.

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