Congratulations to Jason Berman from IWK on the receipt of a C17 Research Network grant targeting neuroblastoma

Grant title: The Microenvironment as a Therapeutic Target in High Risk Neuroblastoma

Lay abstract: Neuroblastoma is one of the most deadly cancers in children. While advances in treatment have made some improvements to survival, more than half of children will still die of disease. When neuroblastoma cells from the initial tumour move to another spot in the body and form another tumour, this is called metastasis and is particularly deadly. Thus, being able to stop cancer cells from spreading to organs like the bone, bone marrow and brain is critical to impacting survival of these vulnerable children. The spread of cancer cells is not only dependent on the cancer cell itself, but also on factors in the surrounding environment, known as the tumour microenvironment. Determining how these factors contribute to the spread of neuroblastoma and either increasing or decreasing these levels could improve current neuroblastoma treatment. We have developed approaches to transplant human cancer cells into zebrafish embryos, which are see-through and have similar cells and organs as humans, providing an environment not dissimilar from what occurs when these cancer cells arise in children. We have further “humanized” these zebrafish by altering them to express certain human factors produced by cells found around cancer cells that may contribute to their movement. We will put human neuroblastoma cells into zebrafish and determine which factors outside and inside the cells affect where these cells travel. Information from these studies will provide guidance as to what factors to block or increase to prevent neuroblastoma spread and improve outcome.