Teodora Andonova - Understanding and Targeting the Architecture in Cancer: Novel Therapies in Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma

Hello and congratulations to your PhD,
People at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health and others are interested to know a little more about your work.

Teodora Andonova
Teodora Andonova

What is your thesis about?

My thesis is about investigating new targeted therapies for the two most common solid cancers in children; neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma. Neuroblastoma appears in the peripheral nervous system, often on the adrenal glands. Medulloblastoma appears in the central nervous system, commonly in the cerebellum. During embryogenesis, an orchestra of inductive signals occur that are important to induce cells from early stem cells to differentiated normal cells. One of the signaling pathways that is essential in this process is the Wingless (Wnt) signaling pathway. While Wnt is necessary during early development, dysregulated Wnt signaling may hinder the differentiation process and participate in the transformation into cancer. By using various pharmaceutical compounds and altering the gene expression of cancer cells through the Wnt signaling pathway, we showed that the cancer cells grew slower and became more differentiated both in vitro and in vivo. Hence, we demonstrated that targeting the Wnt signaling pathway may be a new target in neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma.

Which is the most important key result? 

Perhaps the most novel, and therefore the most important key result, is that we identify a new target in neuroblastoma called teneurin-4. It is a protein that we believe has a role in a high-risk subset of neuroblastoma patients with the lowest survival rate.

Is there something else you would like to add? Maybe something that surprised you during your PhD student journey?

I learned a lot more than I thought I would, about cancer, biotechnology, as well as about science as a philosophy. I also understood the importance of basic science that the world can benefit from. Sometimes it may feel that what one does in the lab is not important as it is far from the patient to make an impact, but the first signs of innovation occur at the lab-bench. I believe the strength of a state is in its innovations, the lab-bench is where it starts for many medical innovations. I may also continue to develop one of my projects if future experiments continue confirming its relevancy.

How can this new knowledge contribute to improve women’s and children’s health?

Hopefully we have contributed and convinced that this pathway is important, and that creating new targeted therapies for the Wnt signaling pathway in the future leads to higher survival for childhood cancer patients, and perhaps to adult cancer patients as well.

Thank you very much Teodora and good luck in the future. 

Understanding and Targeting the Architecture in Cancer: Novel Therapies in Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma