Camera on Cancer Research: Unraveling the Molecular Mechanisms of Neuroblastoma
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Camera on Cancer Research: Unraveling the Molecular Mechanisms of Neuroblastoma


[ Music ] People say to me,
isn’t it depressing? And I said, no, it’s
completely stimulating because you see how hard
they fight and you just want to work even harder because you
know you can make a difference. I actually, like many,
many families, I also have, my family has been
touched by cancer. I lost my sister
at the age of 27. I think maybe I was
a little bit, shied away from cancer research,
but I think once I got involved in it, it’s just so compelling. And I think you see the
families and the children and you can’t help but
want to work harder. This is a neuroblastoma tumor,
and it’s been transfected with a green fluorescent
protein because it’s easier for us to follow in animals. When we treat these tumor
cells with retinoic acid, the cells stop growing
and they extend processes and differentiate. Then we were able, by
studying this system, to eventually translate
it in with collaborators, do a clinical trial that
showed that patients who received retinoic acid did
better than those who didn’t. So now it’s part of
our standard therapy for high risk neuroblastoma
patients. So our latest research
findings are based on when we identified that there
was a receptor called Trk B that was expressed
on the tumor cells. And these patients
who have tumors with this receptor had
a very bad prognosis. We did a study a long
time ago, and we showed that if you took a tumor cell and made it progressively
resistant to a kind of drug, you would get an increase
in the ligand for this BDNF. This BDNF ligand, which is the
growth factor for this receptor. And then we began to show that
if you activated this pathway, the cells were less
sensitive to chemotherapy. So now the really
exciting results that we have is we’ve
identified the signaling pathway that the BDNF Trk B
receptor system utilizes to block the effects
of chemotherapy. And now we can take
a drug that’s come through the clinical trials, that blocks this receptor
signaling pathway. And if we block this, now
the cells are more sensitive to chemotherapy. So that’s really our most
recent finding that we published in JNCI, and we’re
quite excited. It’s really exciting when a basic scientist can
see their work transition into the clinic and actually
ultimately make a difference. And so that’s why one-half
of my lab really works on translating these biological
discoveries that we make into clinically relevant
therapies for children. [ Music ]

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