Single-cell analysis of neuroendocrine tumors reveals new insights for treatment

Researchers at Boston Medical Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has delved into the intricacies of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) at the single-cell level. Their finding, published in Science Advances, mark a significant advancement in comprehending this rare and challenging-to-treat cancer, shedding light on why it resists immunotherapy and offering potential avenues for future treatments.

Co-author Dr. Matthew Kulke, Chief of Hematology/Oncology at Boston Medical Center, and Zoltan Kohn Professor at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, hailed the study as a remarkable collaboration across Boston’s research institutions. He emphasized how this research provides a crucial foundation for developing new treatments for NETs, benefiting patients who face this formidable disease.

NETs originate from neuroendocrine cells found throughout the body, commonly affecting the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and lungs in adults. Despite advances in treatment, these tumors have proven resistant to immunotherapy, which has been transformative for other cancer types. A significant challenge has been the incomplete understanding of the underlying biology of NETs.

Dr. Jennifer Chan, Clinical Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, noted that the study’s insights into the heterogeneity of neuroendocrine tumors and the tumor microenvironment are exceptional. Their ongoing work aims to leverage these insights to uncover innovative therapeutic strategies for enhancing the care of NET patients.

The study’s approach involved examining both the tumors and the neighboring cells in the tumor microenvironment at the single-cell level. This unprecedented level of detail provided insights into the genes and signaling pathways driving tumor progression and potential responses to immunotherapy.

The research team made significant discoveries, revealing previously unseen variations within neuroendocrine tumor subtypes and the potential evolution of tumor characteristics as they metastasize. At this fine-grained resolution, they also identified cells and proteins in the microenvironment that dampen immune responses. Targeting these proteins could offer a way to make these tumors more receptive to immunotherapy treatments.

Source: Boston Medical Center

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