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New potential treatment for aggressive types of childhood cancer


The new method has been proposed by researchers at Karolinska  Institutet, after studies using mice showed that the combination  treatment resulted in a significant suppression in tumour growth. The  study, published in PNAS, also questions a hypothesis within the  research field that could result in potentially harmful wrong treatment  of children with neuroblastoma.

Neuroblastoma affects the peripheral nervous system in children and is a tumour disease with different facets. A number of these tumours disappear naturally and others respond well to the available. There are however some types of neuroblastoma that are very aggressive and, in many cases, do not respond to treatment. Mortality among these high-risk patients is high and there is therefore a substantial requirement for new and efficient methods of treatment.         


During the study, the researchers treated mice with the substance AZA, which blocks and eliminates methyl groups from the DNA of cancer cells, aiming to activate genes that fight the origins of neuroblastoma. AZA was then combined with treatment with retinoic acid (RA), a substance that has the capacity to make certain tumour cells differentiate, mature, into harmless nerve cells.

Neither AZA nor RA could individually suppress the growth of high-risk tumours, but the combination treatment resulted in a significant suppression in in the mice.

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