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Finding new ways to treat neuroblastoma – a common childhood cancer

Researcher
Dr Grant Dewson
Project period
Jan 2021 - Jan 2024
Country
Research Institute
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Cancer types
Neuroblastoma
Award amount
£217,334

Project aim

Dr Grant Dewson and his team are studying how mutations in a protein that has been linked to Parkinson’s disease can lead to cancer development.

Hope for the future

Neuroblastoma is one of the most common childhood cancers and affects around 100 children each year in the UK. Survival rates can vary quite widely, but children with high-risk disease often respond poorly to existing treatments and only around half of children survive for 5 years or longer after their diagnosis. By gaining a better understanding of how certain genetic mutations drive the development of neuroblastoma, Dr Dewson hopes to identify new ways to treat the disease - providing hope for the children and families affected by neuroblastoma.

 

Meet the scientist

Beyond science, Dr Grant Dewson loves football, but dodgy knees have cut short his professional ambitions, and he now plays vicariously through his two sons. He’s also a keen cyclist (“despite the unflattering lycra”) and wishes he could play the guitar better than he does.

The science

Parkin is a protein that plays a key role in keeping cells healthy by monitoring the cell’s mitochondria – the “powerhouses” of the cell. Mutations that lead to defects in parkin are known to cause certain forms of Parkinson’s disease and have, more recently, been linked to the development of a wide variety of cancers.

Dr Dewson and his team have now established a link between parkin and neuroblastoma, but it remains unclear how a “healthy” Parkin protein stops cancer from developing. The team is investigating how Parkin stops cancerous cells from growing and hopes to find new targets that can be used to develop new drugs for neuroblastoma.

We are in dire need of new and more effective drugs to treat numerous cancers including neuroblastoma, and only by understanding the intricacies of how these diseases start, how they develop and how they respond to treatment can we hope to tailor improved drugs.
Dr Grant Dewson

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