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Scientists tie several cancers to common 'oncogene engine'

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report that a common "oncogene engine" ?a small family of malfunctioning cell growth switches ?drives several seemingly unrelated, lethal forms of cancer, including malignant melanoma. The finding suggests that it may be possible to attack these different cancers with the same therapy.

Reporting in the June issue of Cancer Cell, the scientists showed that a small transcription factor family, made up of several proteins that control the activity of key growth genes, functions abnormally in malignant melanoma, two forms of soft-tissue sarcomas, and a type of kidney cancer that mainly affects children. Still other cancers sharing the same causative mechanism may yet be found, the scientists said.

"One would have never thought of grouping these tumors together," said David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, a pediatric oncologist at Dana-Farber and Children's Hospital Boston, who is senior author of the paper. The lead author is Ian J. Davis, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber and Children's Hospital Boston.

"The importance of this finding is that it suggests a common 'engine' is driving these seemingly unrelated cancers," Fisher said. "Therefore, it is plausible that common therapeutic strategies might be applied to the tumors as well." The newly grouped cancers ?melanoma, clear cell sarcoma, alveolar soft part sarcoma, and pediatric renal carcinoma ?are often lethal if surgery cannot completely remove them.

Dana-Farber researchers are already using these new insights in clinical trials of a cancer vaccine, GVAX, that previously has produced rare but dramatic responses in some patients with advanced melanoma. "We have just opened a trial to offer the same vaccine to patients with all of the other cancers in this related family," said Fisher. "Prior to this, virtually no rational experimental treatments were available for these diseases, and patients have already started coming from throughout the country to enlist in our
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Source:Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


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