Fruit Flies For Cancer: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

FRESNO, Calif.

It only affects a couple hundred kids in the u-s each year, but a diagnosis can be devastating. Now, doctors are close to a treatment and they have fruit flies to thank for it!

Sydney Mayrell loves crafts and cupcakes, but what she loves most is to play with her mommy.

Sydney and her mother have grown even closer since Sydney's diagnosis of cancer three years ago.

"I felt a lump in her left thigh," said Erin Mayrell, Sydney's mother.

That lump was rhabdo, an aggressive cancer that spreads through tissues in the body. For Sydney it meant 54 weeks of chemo, four weeks of radiation, and surgery!

"It can be a devastating disease. You're faced with no choice but giving them the most aggressive kind of therapy you can give," said Rene L. Galindo, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology, Molecular Biology, and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

Dr. Rene Galindo hopes his research in fruit flies will change that. In the lab, he was able to show that silencing a specific gene in the flies prevented healthy cells from becoming cancerous and turned cancerous rhabdo cells back to normal! He was able to replicate the same results in human tumor cells.

"The cancer would stop being a tumor and it would become normal skeletal muscle," Dr. Galindo said.

The next step is a clinical trial in humans. If it works, it could essentially be a cure. That has Sydney and her mom excited. She's in remission now, but this good news is icing on the cake!

Dr. Galindo says this method of gene silencing would offer a much less toxic and less harsh treatment for children. Rhabdo tumors usually occur in children under six years old.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Rene L. Galindo, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Pathology, Molecular Biology, and Pediatrics UT Southwestern Medical Center (214) 648-4093

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