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Investigating pituitary gland tumours

The pituitary gland is a small organ located at the base of the brain and it has a vital role in producing hormones. These hormones are involved in many processes from regulating growth to stimulating milk after childbirth. Dr Karhu is using her Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study the development of tumours in the pituitary gland. In particular she is focusing on molecules called AIP and Ga proteins. Ga proteins are involved, for instance, in the regulation of hormonal signals inside the cell. Defective Ga protein signalling has been linked to the development of pituitary tumours. Therefore, it is possible that an altered or damaged Ga gene may predispose a person to pituitary tumour. If a faulty Ga gene is inherited from parents, it means that all family members who carry the same mutation have an increased risk to get a pituitary tumour. Dr Karhu is also investigating what factors make some people respond so poorly to current treatments for pituitary tumours and she thinks a faulty Ga signalling may also play a role in this. The team hopes that their findings could help future patients with pituitary tumours.