New Preclinical Model Could Accelerate Thymic Cancer Research

New Preclinical Model Could Accelerate Thymic Cancer Research

A study on thymic epithelial tumors in mice conducted at Weill Cornell Medicine in the United States has uncovered a new preclinical model which has shown how a common mutation starts the formation of the tumor.

The study, published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (August 29th 2022) describes a mouse model in which animals’ thymic epithelial cells harbor a genetic variant called GTF2I L424H.  (This is the most common mutation in thymic cancers.)

Dr. Giaccone, associate director of clinical research at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine said about the research:

“We think the GTF2I L424H mutation starts the process of tumor formation,” Dr. Giaccone said. “Adding more mutations may make the tumors more aggressive.

Having a mouse model of thymic epithelial tumors will help us learn more about how these tumors form and allow us to test new therapies.”

After comparing the mouse tumors with human thymic cancer samples they found that they share many molecular characteristics with B1 and B2 type thymic tumors in humans.


The problem with past research

The study’s lead author said of the problem with the rareness of thymic cancers and the availability of cell lines to study:

“There are currently no good preclinical models that recreate the disease features in humans, and only a handful of cell lines are available for study”

Understandably, this has restricted research on new treatments for thymic cancers.

Dr Yongfeng He said: “We wanted to understand why these tumors happen and how we can develop curative therapies.”


Next steps for the research

The next step for the researchers will be studying just how this mutation causes cancerous changes in the thymus and what genetic pathways are involved.

Dr. He said that the gene affected GTF2I L424H mutations also controls the expression of many other genes, for this reason it would probably not be a good target for anti-cancer therapies.  However the other genes that the mutation turns on or off might be potential targets.

Dr. He said that “We can use our mouse model to test drugs that target these other genes to find better therapies specific to thymic epithelial tumors”.




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