Author: Mackenzie Heidkamp
The topic of cancer is one of the hardest concepts for people to discuss due to the distasteful images surrounding mortality. The topic of childhood cancer is even more unbearable for people to imagine. This is because people understand that these young children have yet to make poor decisions that could result in such a poor prognosis. The idea that children have to face death at such a young age has moved people to raise more funds for research and treatment.
Professor Glenn Marshall and his team of researchers in Australia have recently made a breakthrough discovery in Neuroblastoma research. For more context, Neuroblastoma is known as a deadly childhood cancer with 90 percent of all cases being found in children younger than the age of 5 (cancer.net). A neuroblastoma is essentially a cancerous brain tumor found in children that “develops from nerve cells in the fetus called neuroblasts” (St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital).
One of the genes found within neuroblastoma cells is called MYCN. Researchers tried to find ways to target these MYCN genes specifically, which drive the cancer within these patients, but quickly realized that the task was impossible. Determined to find another way, Marshall’s researchers found a protein called ALYREF “as a key regulator of MYCN turnover and neuroblastoma tumorigenesis” (Marshall). In
other words, they realized that they could target MYCN by focusing on ALYREF proteins which actually “control MYCN function in neuroblastoma cells” (Marshall). This research alone is groundbreaking because it allows scientists to have another avenue to explore when it comes to treating Neuroblastoma cancer and potentially other cancers that also involve these similar proteins/genes. Now, Marshall and his team are hoping to find some type of inhibitor that can stop this protein and gene from progressing the aggressive cancer.