University of Utah geneticists have engineered mice that can develop synovial sarcoma a significant early step toward developing new treatments for the aggressive, deadly cancer that most often kills teenagers and young adults.
The genetically engineered, cancer-stricken mice were used to determine that synovial sarcoma develops in muscle cell precursors known as myoblasts, the researchers report in the April issue of the journal Cancer Cell, which features the study on its cover.
The cancer once was thought to arise in synovium, the membrane lining joints like the knee and elbow. That idea fell from favor in recent years, and until now, scientists have not known in which cells the cancer originated.
The only way to develop a therapy that is specific for this cancer is to understand how it works, and the mouse gives you that possibility, says the studys leader, Mario R. Capecchi, distinguished professor and co-chair of human genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
But as is the case with many basic research advances, Capecchi says a treatment for synovial sarcoma based on the new finding remains at least a decade away. Nevertheless, there also is a wider promise.
First you can design and evaluate new treatments for this specific cancer and, second, you can design therapy for sarcomas in general because they share many common features with synovial sarcoma, says the studys first author, Malay Haldar, a human genetics graduate student who works in Capecchis laboratory.
Other authors of the University of Utah study are oncologist Stephen L. Lessnick, an assistant professor of pediatrics; Jeffrey D. Hancock, a fellow in pediatric hematology-oncology; and physician Cheryl Coffin, professor and head of pediatric pathology.
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