Israeli researchers have discovered molecular interactions underlying Ewing sarcoma bone cancer and developed a new treatment to stop its spread.
The discovery was reported by the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) in Central Israel on Wednesday.
Ewing’s sarcoma disease is caused by a single genetic defect and mainly affects teenagers.
The WIS research, published in the journal Cell Reports, focused on receptors for steroid hormones called glucocorticoids.
These receptors are present in almost all human cells, conveying hormonal messages related to stress, wakefulness and other important functions.
However, sometimes these receptors stimulate malignant growth by moving to the cell nucleus, where they interact and bind with transcription factors — molecules that turn genes on or off.
The WIS team first performed a high-resolution analysis of proteins in living cells and discovered new interactions.
One of these factors is known to drive the development of Ewing sarcoma, as its gene unites abnormally with another gene, creating an oncogene, a cancer-causing gene.
Then, laboratory and mouse experiments found that the binding of the protein made by this oncogene increased the growth and migration of sarcoma cells.
The scientists also identified seven genes regulated by the glucocorticoid receptors that were expressed in high levels in patients with lethal tumors.
These genes may serve as a genetic signature enabling a selection of patients for treatment and also help predict the course of the disease.