Investigators at the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children's Hospital Los Angeles have reported new findings about an immune cell - called a tumor-associated macrophage - that promotes cancer instead of fighting it. They have identified the molecular pathway, known as STAT3, as the mechanism the immune cell uses to foster neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer, and have demonstrated use of a clinically available agent, ruxolitinib, to block the pathway. Results of the study were published online in Oncotarget on September 20, 2017. The article is titled Tumor-Associated Macrophages Promote Neuroblastoma Via STAT3 Phosphorylation and Up-Regulation of c-MYC.” Neuroblastoma is the second most common solid tumor effecting children. Individuals with high-risk disease have a mortality rate of approximately 50 percent. Certain conditions are associated with high-risk disease. High levels of some chemicals involved with inflammation and the presence of an immune cell called a tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) are associated with high-risk disease and lower survival rates. Macrophages are a type of immune cell that typically function to battle disease, not encourage it. "The macrophages are essentially co-opted by the tumor cells to help them grow," said Shahab Asgharzadeh, MD, Director of the Basic and Translational Neuroblastoma program at CHLA and lead investigator of the study. "We're trying to find out more about the mechanisms that enable TAMs to help cancer grow so that we can target the pathways they use and block their pro-tumor effect."
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