Fruit flies fight childhood cancer - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Fruit flies fight childhood cancer

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(06/28/13) - Fruit flies are helping doctors figure out how to treat a devastating childhood cancer. 

Rhabdomyosarcoma, or RHABDO, is a potentially deadly cancer. It affects a couple hundred kids each year. Now, thanks to fruit flies, doctors are close to a treatment - and possibly a cure.

Sydney Mayrell loves crafts and cupcakes, but what she loves most, she says, is, "to play with Mommy."

Sydney's mother says they have grown even closer since Sydney's diagnosis of cancer three years ago, "I felt a lump in her left thigh."

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," says  Dr. Rene Galindo, of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The doctor hopes his fruit fly research will change that.  In the lab, Galindo 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," Galindo says.

The next step is a clinical trial in humans. If it works, it could essentially be a cure, which is very exciting news to Sydney and her mother.

Sydney is currently in remission now.

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.

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