November 15, 2011 | by City of Hope Staff
Scientists now think that areas of the body like the bone marrow actually may welcome and protect spreading cancer cells. City of Hope researchers have paired up with scientists at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to target these hiding places — specifically in the treatment of neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma, which forms in the nervous system, is the most common type of cancer in infants and the fourth most common childhood cancer. Some neuroblastomas are highly aggressive and difficult to treat successfully because they resist drugs. But a new $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) now backs a major project that explores how this kind of drug resistance happens and how to overcome it.
In neuroblastoma, researchers believe the bone marrow provides a nest of sorts for cancer cells, protecting them from chemotherapy. Something about the bone marrow environment seems to help neuroblastoma cells survive strong anticancer therapy and create drug-resistant offspring.
The NCI grant sets up a special center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to study environment-mediated drug resistance, and City of Hope scientists are a major part of it. City of Hope researchers Richard Jove, Ph.D., and Hua Yu, Ph.D., will investigate whether cutting off certain lines of communication in bone marrow cells can actually keep neuroblastoma cells from growing resistant to drugs. The researchers’ joint goal: to develop specific, targeted therapies that can be tested in clinical trials.