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Research has found a suppressed gene which causes the childhood cancer neuroblastoma could be reactivated with drugs to help stop tumour growth.
Each year around 50 children in the UK die from the cancer, but Dr Arturo Sala, of University College London’s Institute of Child Health, has found the common gene clusterin halts the growth of neuroblastoma cancer.
His team found the gene, which was first discovered in human tissue and body fluid 20 years ago, gets suppressed by cancer cells, but drugs could be used to reactivate it.
Dr Sala said: “Our team found that in neuroblastoma, expression of clusterin is repressed by the cancer gene MYCN, which is typically activated in this childhood malignancy.
“When expression of clusterin was artificially restored in cultured neuroblastoma cells, these were not malignant and could not form tumours during laboratory experiments, suggesting clusterin can effectively suppress tumour growth.”
The team now hopes to investigate whether reactivating the gene can stop the growth of neuroblastoma cancer, which is the biggest cause of cancer deaths among babies and one of the top three cancer killers of children under five.
It is also hoped the discovery can be used to tackle other cancers, including prostate cancer.
Copyright Press Association 2009