Treating Neuroendocrine Tumors: New Patent Awarded

Herbert Chen, MD, and Muthusamy Kunnimalaiyaan, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, have received a patent (8,338,482) for a “Modulating Notch1 Signaling Pathway for Treating Neuroendocrine Tumors.”

The abstract of the patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office states: “Methods and pharmaceutical compositions for treating or suppressing symptoms of neuroendocrine (NE) tumors comprising increasing the levels or activities of Notch1 protein or other components of the Notch1 signaling pathway of the cancer cells. Also disclosed are pharmaceutical compositions for the methods.”

Notch 1 Signaling in Neuroendocrine Tumors

In a 2007 article published in The Oncologist, “Tumor Suppressor Role of Notch-1 Signaling in Neuroendocrine Tumors,   Drs. Kunnimalaiyaan and Chen write about the tumor suppressor role of Notch-1 signaling in neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) such as carcinoid and medullary thyroid cancers.  “NETs secrete various bioactive hormones that can cause debilitating symptoms. Surgery is the only potential curative treatment for the patients with NETs.  Notch-1 signaling significantly reduces tumor growth in vitro.  Therefore, identification of compound(s) that activate the Notch-1 pathway in NETs could be a potential strategy to treat patients with NETs.”

Dr. Chen was a featured speaker for the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation’s Symposium in 2008, talking about Notch-1 as a Therapeutic Agent for Carcinoid.  Watch the presentation here:

Signaling Pathways in Neuroendocrine Tumors

Dr. Chen is the leader of the endocrine cancer group at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. His research program investigates the development, progression, and treatment of endocrine tumors including gastrointestinal carcinoids, thyroid cancer, adrenal cancer, and pancreatic islet cell tumors. Dr. Chen’s laboratory focuses on the role of cellular signaling pathways in the differentiation and growth of neuroendocrine tumors including carcinoid, pancreatic islet cell, pheochromocytoma, and medullary thyroid cancer.

Herbert Chen, MD, Lab Team, University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Pictured is Dr. Chen’s lab team. Dr. Chen and Dr. Kunnimalaiyaan are in the second row from the bottom, second and third from the right, respectively.

His lab has shown that over expression of Notch1 in GI carcinoid cells as well as in medullary thyroid cancer cells causes a dramatic reduction in hormone production accompanied by growth suppression. His group is currently developing animal models of GI carcinoid and medullary thyroid tumor progression to investigate the possible role of Notch1 in suppressing hormone production by these tumors. Dr. Chen’s group is also initiating clinical trials with Notch1 activating compounds.Notch 1 Signaling Pathway

Notch-1 is a protein present in cells in the body. According to Dr. Chen, “Notch-1 is a pathway or switch we believe plays an important role in the development of neuroendocrine tumors and carcinoid tumors.” He  explains that it is very important to do laboratory-based research on understanding the mechanisms which cause carcinoid and NET tumors to develop and what causes them to progress because by “understanding the biology of these tumors hopefully we can design specific treatments for these tumors.  We need new treatments for neuroendocrine cancers as surgery is the only cure at this time.”

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation has provided funds in support of  the research of  Dr. Chen and Dr. Kunnimalaiyaan.  We congratulate them on receiving the patent and hope this will mark a significant step towards new treatments and an eventual cure for NET cancer patients.

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