transparent bodies of two persons, combined with the outlines of a male and a female face

With their joint research project, Nicole Bechmann, TUD, and Rocio Sancho, King’s, take into consideration the sex-related differences that affect the incidence and survival of cancer in non-reproductive organs, such as the adrenal gland. Sex specific medicine is just a recent but nonetheless important scientific approach to adequately face “traditional” medical treatments.

The research group previously demonstrated that pheochromocytomas (PCC) being neural crest-derived cell tumours – so called paraganglioma – of the adrenal medulla, which is the innermost part of the adrenal gland, are more prevalent in females compared to males. Nevertheless, metastases in these chromaffin cell tumours are more common in males, but the mechanisms behind these sex differences are largely unknown and effective treatment strategies for aggressive diseases are still lacking.

The present project therefore aims to address the hypothesis that sex-specific differences in differentiation within the chromaffin cell lineage may contribute to the development of PGL and have implications for potential therapeutic approaches. Starting with the work published by Abu-Bonsrah et al., a differentiation protocoll for so called hiPSCs will be established. HiPSCs are isogenic human induced pluripotent stem cells, and with the protocoll the research team wants to investigate at which step of differentiation from neural crest cells to chromaffin cells differences between sexes occur.

Furthermore, the project group aims to identify targets for a potential sex-specific therapy. The described model will be the first tool that allows for investigation of sex-specific differences in treatment response. Subsequently, chromaffin-like cells will be treated with different targeted drugs alone or in combination and treatment response will be assessed (viability assay).