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Loss of tumor supressor gene essential to transforming benign nerve tumors into cancers
Date:10/13/2009

Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center showed for the first time that the loss or decreased expression of the tumor suppressor gene PTEN plays a central role in the malignant transformation of benign nerve tumors called neurofibromas into a malignant and extremely deadly form of sarcoma.

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 Tomograph
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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