A key gene in the malignant rhabdoid tumor that strikes children under three years has been identified by scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
The gene, 'Aorora A' will help in finding an effective treatment for the highly fatal disease, which affects the brain or kidney.
Rhabdoid tumor is an extremely rare disease affecting kids. Fewer than 10 cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S. but it is particularly difficult to treat and almost always fatal.
The 'Aurora A' gene is known to be expressed at higher-than-normal levels in many cancers, and its expression is associated with poor prognosis.
Scientists have also known that mutations in a tumor suppressor gene called INI1/hSNF5 can lead to rhabdoid tumors.
Einstein researchers have found that in rhabdoid tumors, loss of the tumor suppressor gene INI1/hSNF5 leads to changes in Aurora A's expression that are crucial for tumor growth.
"Our findings indicate that targeting Aurora A could be an effective strategy for halting rhabdoid tumor growth," said Dr. Ganjam Kalpana, professor of genetics and of microbiology and immunology, the Mark Trauner Faculty Scholar in Neuro-oncology at Einstein.
Kalpana notes that many Aurora A inhibitors are now being tested against several types of cancers, including melanoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And other researchers have now expressed interest in using Aurora A inhibitors in trials for children with rhabdoid brain tumors.
The findings appeared in the April 26 online issue of Cancer Research.