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Today, researchers are investigating the complicated genes behind two deadly childhood cancers: medulloblastoma (brain cancer) and neuroblastoma (cancer that develops in nerve tissue).
Preliminary research supported by Children’s Cancer Research Fund funding helped identify a gene called FOXR2 as a potential genetic factor that can transform regular healthy cells into medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma cells — otherwise known as an “oncogene.”
David Largaespada, PhD and his lab identified FOXR2 as being a potential cause of both diseases by using forward genetic screening on mice. Forward genetic screening is a process that scientists use to randomly mutate genes, observe a new trait in the gene and determine what genes were altered in the cells (or animal) with the new trait.
Largaespada is most excited about finding a potential explanation for the aggressive behavior of these tumors, which could lead to more effective treatments.
Now that his team has strong evidence that medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma are genetically similar, he’ll use new CCRF funding to determine the following:
– How often FOXR2 causes other types of human nervous system cancers
– How FOXR2 functions to cause tumors
– Ways FOXR2 could be targeted by new and improved therapies