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Blocking children’s bone cancer

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have discovered the molecular interactions underlying Ewing sarcomas – a rare type of bone cancer mostly found in teens – that may lead to potential personalized treatments.

Ewing sarcoma is the second most common type of bone cancer in children and most cases respond to a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. When diagnosed after the cancer has spread beyond the bone, the survival rate plummets to less than 30 per cent.

Prof. Yosef Yarden of the Department of Biological Regulation along with Dr. Swati Srivastava, had their discovery recently published in Cell Reports.

The study focused on receptors for steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, receptors which are present in virtually all human cells, but sometimes stimulate malignant growth. The receptors can throw the cancerous gene associated with Ewing sarcoma into overdrive.

By blocking glucocorticoid receptor activity, it is possible to control the growth and spread of Ewing sarcoma. The medical significance is that there are treatment options based on existing drugs that control glucocorticoid receptor activity.

“Our findings provide the basis for a personalized approach to the treatment of Ewing sarcoma,” Srivastava says. The fact that the study made use of drugs that have already been approved for other uses should facilitate the implementation of this approach.

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