MAY 06, 2016 1:46 PM PDT

Biomarker Predicts Childhood Cancer Relapse

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Lack of a protein indicates high risk of childhood cancer recurrence
Researchers say a protein biomarker could indicate whether a childhood cancer, neuroblastoma, will relapse. Absence of the marker, known as PML, was associated with tumor recurrence. The team says this piece of information could improve patient outcome, as therapies can be tailored according to a patient’s diagnostic result for the PML marker.
 
Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that affects nerve cells in the sympathetic nervous system (PNS). This cancer is one of the most common forms of childhood cancer, affecting infants and young children. It is rarely found in children older than 10 years.
 
Children diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma, indicated by onset under 5 years of age and metastatic potential, are treated with intensive chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and even bone marrow transplantation. In contrast, for low-risk neuroblastoma patients, doctors may opt to continuously monitor the tumor with or without surgical intervention. This method of “wait-and-see” has 90 percent prognosis rate for low-risk patients, but some deadly relapses can occur.
 
In testing neuroblastoma cell lines, the team at Brunel University London and University College London honed in on the PML protein, known formally as promyelocytic leukemia protein. They noted that PML is normally detected in the developing and adult PNS. However, PML expression was low or near absent in metastatic neuroblastoma tumors. The PML protein acts to suppress the development of blood vessels that feed the tumor cells, thus its absence is consistent with increased risk for tumor recurrence.
 
“In the low risk tumors, the absence of PML will be a very useful marker," said Arturo Sala, Professor at Brunel, and co-leader of the study. "What we can now say is that even some tumors classified as low risk, that would have previously gone untreated, if they show no expression of PML, they ought now to be classified as high risk.”
 
Indeed, the prognosis for low-risk neuroblastoma patients may even exceed 90 percent if these patients can be screened and treated promptly according to the presence or absence of PML. "It is an immediately applicable diagnostic tool," said Sala. "The cost is relatively small - it is just done by microscope inspection and could be used whenever a child is diagnosed by biopsy. If you save one child it is worthwhile."
 
In the next phase, the team has to validate their findings and confirm that PML levels can be predictive of neuroblastoma outcomes. Because the test would rely on a negative result – absence of PML – the team will need to find another biomarker to serve as a positive control. If successful, they will move to clinical trials to establish the effectiveness of this biomarker. 
 

Additional source: MNT
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
APR 01, 2020
Cancer
APR 01, 2020
New immunotherapy for ovarian cancer
Research published recently in the Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests that targeting macrophages in a new kind of ...
APR 14, 2020
Immunology
APR 14, 2020
Immunotherapy Shows Promise, Destroys Metastatic Brain Tumors
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S., with smokers bearing an elevated risk of th ...
APR 17, 2020
Cancer
APR 17, 2020
Can astronauts withstand radiation on a mission to Mars?
New research published in the journal Science Advances attempts to model the risk of cancer that astronauts will incur f ...
MAY 07, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
MAY 07, 2020
How the Function of a Critical Immune Cell is Related to Metabolism
This work suggests that it may be possible to dampen autoimmunity or promote an immune attack on cancer through a bioche ...
MAY 23, 2020
Cancer
MAY 23, 2020
A New Biomarker to Identify a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Prognosis
Breast cancer, one of the most common cancers in the world, are commonly separated into one of several sub-types. These ...
MAY 28, 2020
Cancer
MAY 28, 2020
Oncologists need more training on how to deliver bad news
A commentary published earlier this spring in the Journal of Clinical Oncology urges for improved training for medical p ...
Loading Comments...