Researchers have identified a new role for a cancer-prevention gene in the response to drug treatment for childhood cancer.
In humans, the p53 tumour suppressor gene, also known as the 'guardian of the genome', is known for its role in the prevention of cancer. Mutations in the gene are associated with a high incidence of cancer due to the uncontrolled division of cells which give rise to tumours.
In childhood cancers such as neuroblastoma, p53 mutations are rare at diagnosis, however they can emerge after chemotherapy.
A recent study published in the international journal Cancer Research recently by researchers from the Children's Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research (CCIA), and collaborators in the USA, describes a new role for p53 in childhood cancer.
The group showed that by inactivating p53 in neuroblastoma cells, the most common childhood cancer, the cancer cells became resistant to a number of chemotherapy drugs.
"Our results provide definitive evidence of a role for p53 as a gene which dictates drug sensitivity in neuroblastoma," said Dr Xue of CCIA's Molecular Diagnostics Program.
"These results highlight the importance of p53 status as an indicator of a patient's treatment response in neuroblastoma."
"Further research has found that p53 does not have one defined function in cancer susceptibility to treatment," adds Dr Xue. "In some cancer cell types it does not act as a drug sensitivity gene. It is therefore important to assess the clinical effect of p53 mutations in different cancers in a tissue context."
This work was supported by funding from the National Cancer Institute, National Health and Medical Research Council and Cancer Institute NSW.
Children's Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research is associated with the University of NSW and Sydney Children's Hospital.
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