London: An `on/off` switch in a type of cancer which typically occurs in the testes and ovaries has been identified by Cambridge scientists. Malignant germ cell tumours arise in sperm- or egg-forming cells and usually occur in the reproductive organs, the testes or ovaries. The cancerous tumours are seen in patients of all ages, both in childhood and adulthood. Although many patients do well after treatment, current chemotherapy treatments can have severe long-term side effects, including hearing loss and damage to the kidneys, lungs and bone marrow. The scientists found that all malignant germ cell tumours contain large amounts of a protein called LIN28. This results in too little of a family of tiny regulator molecules called let-7. In turn, low levels of let-7 cause too much of numerous cancer-promoting proteins in cells.
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