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Source of common kidney cancers discovered

Friday August 10th, 2018

The cancer cells responsible for the most common childhood and adult kidney cancers have been identified, British researchers announced last night.

In the first study of its kind, scientists from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge, University of Newcastle and their collaborators have shown that the cancer cells are versions of specific healthy cells from developing or adult kidneys.

The researchers examined more than 72,000 individual kidney cells from healthy and cancerous tissue, comparing Wilms’ tumour and renal cell carcinoma cells with normal cells from developing, children’s, teen or adult kidneys.

Using single cell RNA sequencing, they ascertained the cancer cells’ precise identity, finding that children’s Wilms’ cancer cells have the same characteristics as a specific normal developing kidney cell. This indicates that these kidney cells failed to develop properly in the womb, they say in the latest edition of <i>Science</i>.

Dr Sam Behjati, leader of the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Cambridge University’s Department of Paediatrics, said: “Our ground-breaking study identified the exact gene activity in each cell and revealed that Wilms’ tumour cells have the same characteristics of a normal developing kidney cell, which may have got ‘stuck’ during development.

“This could lead to an entirely new model for treating childhood cancer, by manipulating the development state of the cells instead of trying to kill them with chemotherapy.”

The researchers also discovered that the adult renal carcinoma cells are a version of PT1, a specific rare subtype of healthy adult kidney cell, which they hope will enable the development of a new method for treating cancer by targeting this PT1 cell specifically.

Dr Menna Clatworthy, principal investigator at the University of Cambridge Department of Medicine, said: “This study has importance beyond cancer. The inclusion of data from healthy developmental, child, adolescent, and adult kidney samples, has allowed us to generate the first human kidney cell atlas.

“This will make an important contribution towards the global Human Cell Atlas initiative that aims to map every cell in the human body and make this information available to researchers around the world.”

Fellow researcher Dr Sarah Teichmann, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and co-chair of the Human Cell Atlas initiative, added: “Our work towards the Human Cell Atlas aims to make the data relevant to human disease and our understanding of human biology. This is a huge survey of epithelial cells of the human kidney throughout the human lifespan, which revolutionises our understanding of the kidney in health and cancer.”

Science 9 August 2018

Tags: Cancer | Internal Medicine | UK News

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