New Understanding Of Tumor Growth May Help To Fight Cancer

The journal Brain: A Journal Of Neurology has recently published a groundbreaking study. It seems that cells have a mechanism that makes them fight tumors and abnormal cell growth. This finding is revolutionary and may open up a frontier in the battle against cancer and other types of tumors as well. The study was carried out in the Plymouth University Peninsula School Of Medicine And Dentistry, and was published this May. 

Merlin and Sox10

While it was known that human cells have tumor suppressant proteins in them, it was not known how these work and which proteins they are exactly. The protein has been identified and has been named Merlin, after the famous wizard and Arthurian healer. If this protein is missing from cells, they will start to grow sporadic benign tumors. Merlin is mostly found in the cells of our nervous system, typically it is present in the lining of the brain and the membranes around the brain and the spine. When cells divide, it is possible for both of the cells that result to lack Merlin, which will cause them to sporadicaly grow tumors. When this happens often, a condition known as neurofibromatosis 2 occurs, which is usually lethal. Patients with this condition are overwhelmed with tumors in their brain and in the lining of the brain and nervous system. The tumors, called schwannomas can either be removed through invasive surgeries, which is a bad thing and is only a partial solution, or they can be treated with radiotherapy, which is also bad because it makes patients sick, and can only treat one tumor at a time, which is often too little too late. The tumors are slow growing and benign, but still eventually incapacitate patients because of their location. 

Cells that lack a different protein, called Sox10 are much more likely to become tumorous as well. Once these proteins are lost, tumors start to form. By understanding this correlation, a new type of tumor treatment, once the exact mechanism is understood, that does not involve potentially lethal surgeries or ineffective radiotherapy can evolve, one that is based on taking drugs.

Implications For Oral Cancer Patients   

If a medication can be developed that involves the taking of drugs to form proteins that stop abnormal cell growth, that means that cancer will effectively be, if not cured, but at least the growth of the tumor itself will stop. This means that oral cancer and tumors in the mouth may be similarly treated.