A newly identified molecular pathway appears to be essential for the growth and spread of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children (Snuderl M et al. Cell. 2013;152:1065-1076). The pathway carries signals from host supportive tissue (stroma) to tumor cells via placental growth factor and its receptor neuropilin 1.
An international team led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers demonstrated that blocking this cellular communication with antibodies against placental growth factor caused tumor regression, decreased metastasis, and increased survival in mouse models of various molecular subtypes of medulloblastoma. The group also found that release of the developmental protein Sonic hedgehog by tumor cells induces expression of placental growth factors in nearby stromal cells, which then bind to neuropilin 1 receptors on tumor cells, leading to further tumor growth.
Hampton T. Medulloblastoma Growth Factor. JAMA. 2013;309(17):1765. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4803