A new study from University of Wurzburg in Germany has found vital clues that may lead to development of new treatments for aggressive childhood cancer.
Previous studies have shown that amplification of the MYCN gene, which disrupts control of cell division and differentiation, is a strong predictor of poor prognosis in neuroblastoma, the most common cancer in young children.
"We speculated that genes that are expressed in a MYCN-dependent manner might be required specifically for the growth of MYCN-amplified neuroblastomas and that MYCN-amplified neuroblastomas might depend not only on N-Myc itself, but also on upstream regulatory factors or downstream target genes," said senior study author, Dr. Martin Eilers, from the University of Wurzburg in Germany.
During the study, the research team led by Eilers analysed almost 200 genes that interact with MYCN.
They found a gene called AURKA responsible for the growth of deadly MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells.
AURKA encodes the enzyme Aurora A, which is dysregulated in cancer cells like neuroblastoma cells.
"Our results show that stabilization of N-Myc is a critical oncogenic function of Aurora A in childhood neuroblastoma; the challenge will now be to find ways to interfere with this function in order to find new approaches for the therapy of these tumours," said Eilers.
The research is published journal Cancer Cell.