UTSW Researchers One Step Closer to Stopping Disease Causing Thousands of Painful Tumors

Imagine having a condition that covers your body with thousands of small tumors. Not only are they disfiguring, but they itch, are painful, catch on your clothing, bleed, and can become infected. The only thing worse than the physical pain is the emotional distress of trying to hide them, if possible.

The condition is called neurofibromatosis type 1, and occurs in one in 3,000 people. UT Southwestern researchers have created a model and identified a marker for the cell of origin for NF1 tumors, allowing them to learn more about how they form and possibly slow their growth.

“Because of this model, we now know the exact origin of these two types of tumors. If you know where the tumor begins, and you know the end result, then you can follow the steps in the occurrence of the tumor and figure out how to interrupt the development of the tumors,” said Dr. Le, who both treats NF1 patients and does research on the condition via relea

Presently, the only way to treat the condition is by surgically removing the most painful and disfiguring of the tumors, as removing all of them would be impossible.  Even when they are surgically removed, they often grow back or leave a large scar. Researchers developed a technique where the tumor and root are removed in one motion and closed with a single stitch, which is being tested in a clinical study.

Researchers have also found a pathway that can modify the development and growth of the tumors. If they are able to control or block that pathway, the tumors can be blocked as well.

Other UT Southwestern researchers helped with the study, including first author and Assistant Instructor Dr. Zhiguo Chen; postdoctoral researchers Dr. Juan Mo, Dr. Jean-Philippe Brosseau, Dr. Chung-Ping Liao, and Dr. Jonathan Cooper; research associates Tracey Shipman and Yong Wang of Dermatology; and Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Biology, Dr. Thomas Carroll. Dr. Carroll holds the NCH Corporation Chair in Molecular Transport. The research appeared in Cancer Discovery.