Oestrogen causes neuroblastoma cells to mature into neurons
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The female sex hormone oestrogen can perform an important role in neuroblastoma, a form of cancer mainly affecting young children. In laboratory experiments, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden demonstrate that oestrogen treatment and overexpression of the oestrogen receptor cause malignant neuroblastoma cells to mature into neuron-like cells. The study, which is published in PNAS, gives hope of new treatment possibilities.

Neuroblastoma forms in the peripheral nervous system and is one of the most common forms of solid cancer in young children. The disease mainly affects babies and young children, and while in some cases the tumours can disappear of their own accord, the majority are aggressive, metastasising cancer tumours that are resistant to modern combinations of surgery, radiotherapy and intensive chemotherapy.

The most aggressive forms of neuroblastoma are often associated with a more active MYCN gene, which drives tumour cell growth and spread and inhibits the maturation of the cells.

“Our research focuses particularly on the activity of this gene and how it relates to neuroblastoma,” says Professor Marie Arsenian-Henriksson at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet. “MYCN is often seen only as a marker for a poor prognosis, but it’s critical to the

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