A transatlantic team of investigators has zeroed in on mutations in follicular lymphoma which they believe make effective new targets for drug developers.
The researchers concentrated on the mTOR pathway, which is turned on when nutrients are present in large enough quantities to feed cell growth. And they spotlighted a mutation in the RRAGC gene that appears to be essential for the pathway to switch on and stay on regardless of the amount of food available to fuel cells.
"One of the mutations that we have identified allows follicular lymphoma tumors to turn on growth signals regardless of whether nutrients are available, thereby evading normal restrictions on its growth," notes Jessica Okosun from Queen Mary University of London, who worked with investigators at the Whitehead Institute and MIT, in a release.
"Remarkably, the mutations we have discovered have not been seen in other cancer types. However, drugs that directly target this nutrient-sensing mechanism are currently used to treat other types of cancer, and may benefit patients with follicular lymphoma."
The inhibition of mTOR is not new. The researchers point out that the decades-old drug rapamycin was discovered in the '60s. Companies like Navitor and researchers at Salk have specialized in studying the mTOR pathway.