One in 25,000 people worldwide is affected by neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), a condition where the loss of a tumour suppressor called Merlin results in multiple tumours in the brain and nervous system.
Sufferers may experience 20 to 30 tumours at any one time and such numbers often lead to hearing loss, disability and eventually death. Currently, the only available effective therapies are repeated invasive surgery or radiotherapy aimed at one tumour at a time and which are unlikely to eradicate all the tumours in one go. NF2 can affect any family, regardless of past history, through gene mutation. There is no cure.
However, a research team from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have moved one step nearer a non-surgical therapy, by identifying for the first time a new group of growth factor receptors that signal to brain tumours.
The study, which is published today (14th January 2013) in Oncogene (one of the world's leading cancer journals), shows that such receptors are over-expressed and activated in certain brain tumours. The study also identifies the mechanism that causes this activity and shows that, by interfering with the activation, tumour cells can be corrected.
Such growth factors are known to play a role in the development of other cancers, but this is the first time that the link has been made to cancer tumours in the brain and nervous system.
The breakthrough is key to the development of non-surgical therapies for NF2: there are drugs already available that target these growth factor receptors in other cancers and the Plymouth research team shows that there is scope for adapting such drugs for the treatment of NF2.
The research was led by Professor C. Oliver Hanemann, Director of the Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine and Chair of Clinical Neurobiology at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, and Consultant in Neurol
|Contact: Andrew Gould|
University of Plymouth