We supported a project sponsored by Cancer Council NSW called “The critical role of the long intergenic noncoding RNA MALAT1 in Neuroblastoma” and it has been conducted by Dr Tao Liu of the Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW).

A protein called N-Myc is often associated with neuroblastoma – in fact the majority of patients who die from the disease have high levels of this protein. So far, researchers have not been sure why there is this link between the N-Myc protein and cancer. Most patients with one particular type of neuroblastoma, caused by N-Myc, die because the tumour spreads throughout the body. The researchers are looking at what genes allow the tumour to grow and spread, and test if drugs can stop those genes and stop the tumour from multiplying. This changed over the last year when Dr Liu discovered that N-Myc increases the activity of a gene known as MALAT1. This gene is linked to the formation of new blood vessels, so when this gene becomes more active, it helps neuroblastoma to spread. The research team has found that by blocking MALAT1, it is possible to reduce the development of new blood vessels and the spread of the neuroblastoma cells. 

Thanks to this  Cancer Council NSW research grant, the team has uncovered the possibility of using MALAT1 as a new and effective target for neuroblastoma treatment. This means there is an opportunity to create new drugs that directly inhibit the activity of MALAT1 to stop neuroblastomas from spreading. Going forward, Dr Liu and his team will work on developing stable MALAT1-blocking compounds. If these blockers are successful in the lab, this could lay the foundation to start clinical trials testing this treatment with neuroblastoma patients.