U researchers find new osteosarcoma targets

A new mouse model developed by Masonic Cancer Center researchers has revealed genes and pathways that, when altered, can cause osteosarcoma. The information could be used to improve treatment targets for future patients. 

The discoveries were published in the journal Nature Genetics in May.

“Human osteosarcoma tumors are so genetically disordered that it is nearly impossible to utilize the usual methods to identify the genes associated with them,” says Branden Moriarity, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics. “This model offers the first opportunity to identify and understand the genetic drivers of osteosarcoma on a broad scale.”

The scientists’ genomic analysis uncovered several osteosarcoma genes that make proteins that could be targets for therapies in the future. The genes SEMA4D and SEMA6D were found to be expressed at high levels in more than half of all osteosarcomas in humans.  

“SEMA4D seems to cause many human osteosarcomas to grow out of control,” says collaborator David Largaespada, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development. Inhibiting the expression of that gene could help stop the growth of osteosarcoma, he adds.

The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Karen Wyckoff Rein in Sarcoma Foundation, and Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund of Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Published on October 19, 2015