News Story

NF1 Researchers Discover New Genes in NF1 Cancers

Dr. Angela Hirbe, Assistant Professor in Medical Oncology, and her team found that malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) are complex tumors composed of numerous distinct populations of cancer cells. MPNSTs are aggressive cancers that are traditionally difficult to treat, and frequently result in early patient death. Moreover, no effective treatments have been identified.
Dr. Hirbe and her team hypothesized that this paucity of effective therapies may reflect the fact that MPNSTs contain different populations of cancer cells. In their new study, Dr. Hirbe’s team sampled three distinct areas within a single NF1-associated MPNST. They found that MPNSTs do not contain a single population of cancers cells, but rather harbor numerous molecularly-distinct types of cancer cells. This striking heterogeneity means that future therapies need to target multiple different populations of cancer cells in order to be effective. Current studies in her laboratory are focused on identifying treatments that target these unique subpopulations.

This report was published in Genes.
Moon CI, Tompkins W, Wang Y, Godec A, Zhang X, Pipkorn P, Miller CA, Dehner C, Dahiya S, Hirbe AC. Unmasking Intra-tumoral Heterogeneity and Clonal Evolution in NF1-MPNST. Genes (Basel). 2020 May 1;11(5). pii: E499. doi: 10.3390/genes11050499. PMID: 32369930