Virginia Commonwealth University scientists have identified a gene that may play a key role in regulating tumor progression in neuroblastoma, a form of cancer usually found in young children.
Lead researcher Dr Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., from Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair in Cancer Research has shown astrocyte elevated gene-1, AEG-1, a cancer promoting gene, is frequently activated in neuroblastoma.
MYCN is a known genetic determinant of neuroblastoma and elevated levels have been observed in one third of neuroblastoma patients.
The researchers found a potential correlation between AEG-1 and MYCN in neuroblastoma.
"We believe that activation of AEG-1 in addition to MYCN is critical to the development and progression of neuroblastoma," said Fisher.
"This works shows that AEG-1 plays a crucial role in the development and progression of neuroblastoma through activating important signaling pathway and induction of MYCN.
"In addition, we have shown that AEG-1 could be a potential prognostic marker for neuroblastoma and a potential target for novel therapeutic strategies for neuroblastoma patients," he added.
The team found that the elevated expression of AEG-1 makes cancer cells highly aggressive and resistant to factors that may influence cell suicide, and that loss of AEG-1 reduces the tumor-causing properties of highly aggressive neuroblastoma cells.
The study is published in the journal Oncogene.