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A new protein partnership that leads to pediatric tumor regression
Date:9/10/2009

Why are some pediatric cancers able to spontaneously regress? Prof. Michael Fainzilber and his team of the Weizmann Institute's Biological Chemistry Department seem to have unexpectedly found part of the answer. Further research towards a better understanding of the mechanism of action might hopefully lead, in the future, to the development of drugs that will be able to induce regression of certain tumors.

TrkA is a particular cell receptor well known for its "pro-life advocacies": When nerve growth factor proteins bind to TrkA receptors, it activates the receptors into promoting the growth and survival of neurons.

So when Fainzilber, together with Ph.D. student Liraz Harel, postdoctoral student Dr. Barbara Costa, technician Zehava Levy, and former Ph.D. student Dr. Marianna Tcherpakov, carried out screening tests to identify other molecules involved in this signaling cascade, it took them by surprise to learn that TrkA may not be who it seems. They found that if TrkA teams up with another molecule called CCM2 the newly-identified player in this signaling cascade they become "partners in crime," with TrkA turning into a cell killer!

However, though paradoxical, this atypical behavior may actually be rooting for life after all. This idea comes from findings concerning pediatric tumors of neural origin, specifically, medulloblastoma the most common malignant brain tumor and the second most common malignancy among children less than 20 years of age; and neuroblastoma the most common extracranial solid cancer in childhood. Neuroblastoma displays unusual behavior, being one of the few human malignancies known to demonstrate spontaneous regression in some cases, but nobody knows how or why. Studies have shown that the tumors with positive prognosis usually express TrkA, while aggressive forms of the tumor do not. However, how TrkA induces tumor regression is yet unknown, and the mechanism was an enigma.

What if CCM2 was the
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Contact: Yivsam Azgad
news@weizmann.ac.il
972-893-43856
Weizmann Institute of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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