Tumor Tip-Off


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Diagnosing and treating neuroblastomas among the most common solid tumors occurring in young children may soon be easier thanks to a study by researchers at the Weizmann Institute and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Although these tumors are often fast-growing and massive, they do occasionally transform themselves spontaneously into a benign lump of cells. To prescribe optimal treatment, doctors need to know the precise nature of the tumor: Is it malignant and aggressive, or is it in the process of turning into a benign growth? However, most neuroblastomas are first diagnosed at a stage when it is difficult to tell precisely how the tumor is likely to develop.

Prof. Emeritus Uriel Littauer of the Institute's Neurobiology Department has discovered two proteins that may help predict the behavior of neuroblastomas.

Together with colleagues in Rehovot and Philadelphia, he showed that one protein, MAP2d, is present in large amounts in cells of malignant neuroblastomas but in far smaller amounts in tumors that have turned benign. Littauer's Rehovot team then showed that the second protein, 67-kDa LBP, behaves similarly in tumor tissue cultures.

Researchers believe that by measuring the amount of these proteins it may be possible to predict the course of the disease the lower the protein levels, the greater the chance of the tumor transforming itself into a benign state. Such measurements, if confirmed by further testing, will enable doctors to evaluate the patient's condition more accurately and tailor the treatment accordingly.

Collaborating in Prof. Littauer's studies were Drs. David Pleasure and Lynn Meister of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn., USA, and Dr. Ilana Bushkin-Harav, Dr. Nira B. Garty and Aliza Zutra of the Weizmann Institute. Funding was provided by the Collaborative Program of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Weizmann Institute.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.