The Endocrine Oncology Program is actively involved in researching the causes and treatment of adrenal and other endocrine cancers.
One area of interest is stem cell research. Scientists in U-M's adrenal cancer program are studying primitive cells, called stem or progenitor cells, found in the outer cortex of the adrenal gland. They believe defects in these stem cells and the genes that regulate them could be the cause of adrenal cancer. Discovering what goes wrong early in the development of adrenal cancer is the vital first step toward finding better treatments and a cure for this fatal disease.
Neither adrenal nor thyroid cancer stem cells have been discovered, but the Endocrine Oncology Program is searching for them. For more information, visit Stem Cells in Adrenal Cancer.
Genetic mutations are involved in some adrenal cancers. Scientists at U-M are studying several genes that cause pediatric adrenal cancer and, when mutated, appear to be involved in adult cancer, as well. One of the most important is called IGF2, insulin growth factor 2.
U-M researchers have discovered that IGF2 is highly overactive in adult adrenal cancer cells (meaning the cells make too much IGF2 protein). This suggests IGF2 may be an important mediator or initiator of adrenal cancer. Scientists in the U-M adrenal cancer program are studying IGF2 signaling in mice to see how mutations in this gene affect stem cells in the adrenal cortex.
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