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Major breakthrough in cancer treatment

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Researchers have made a major breakthrough which could lead to new approaches to cancer patient treatment.

An international study has made an important discovery in understanding the biology of aggressive lymphoma which could lead to new approaches to therapy.

Researchers identified the DDX3X gene on the X chromosome in lymphomagenesis and identified the homologous gene DDX3Y on the Y chromosome as an attractive therapeutic target.

The work was led by Dr Dan Hodson at the University of Cambridge, with Teesside University researchers based at the National Horizons Centre also involved.

The research has, for the first time, unravelled the role of  mutations in a gene present in the development of lymphomas and highlighted a specific gene which may be more receptive to treatment.

As part of the study, Professor Vikki Rand and colleagues Dr Peixun Zhou and Ms Alex Blain, at the National Horizons Centre, contributed to the mutational analysis and investigated the expression of the protein in samples obtained from children diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma from hospitals across the UK via the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group.

The team found that the mutations detected cause loss of function which inactivates the DDX3X gene – a potentially game-changing breakthrough in cancer treatment.

Professor Vikki Rand

Professor Rand, head of biosciences research in Teesside University’s School of Health & Life Sciences and the National Horizons Centre (NHC), said: “The discovery of the relationship between these genes has identified a new therapeutic strategy for male lymphoma patients.

“This study proposes that we could therapeutically target this specific gene directly or disrupt the balance of protein making and too much protein in the cancer cell.

“This is an exciting development towards a more personalised, less intensive and more effective approach to cancer treatment.

“The gene mutations have been reported in a variety of cancers, including Burkitt lymphoma. Burkitt lymphoma is an aggressive cancer and although mutations have been identified, their role in disease development are largely unknown.

“Mutations in the gene have been identified in 30% of cases and this study reveals, for the first time, the impact of these mutations on the function of the gene in Burkitt lymphoma and other lymphomas with high MYC oncogene levels. Understanding the biology of the disease will enable us to identify new therapeutic approaches to treat patients.”

Dr Jen Vanderhoven, director of the NHC, said: “Research like this is why it’s amazing to work at the National Horizons Centre, where, together with our partners, we pride ourselves on discovering diseases earlier, developing novel treatments and delivering life-saving medicines quicker, safer and more affordably.”

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