Dissecting the ecosystem of neuroendocrine tumors by single cell genomics

Itay Tirosh, PhD

Year: 2019
Institution: Weizmann Institute of Science
Country: Israel
Award Type: Investigator
NET Type: Multiple
Science Type: Basic


Frost will explore the idea of inhibiting a class of molecules, called Wnts, to boost somatostatin receptor 2 (SSTR2) expression in gastroenteropancreatic (GET) NETs to enhance the effectiveness of peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT).

What question will you try to answer through your research?

We have found that proteins within the Wnt pathway can regulate the levels of SSTR2 in NETs, and that inhibiting this pathway significantly elevates receptor expression in NET cell lines. My team and I will investigate how this process happens and will use mouse models of NET tumors to determine whether inhibiting the Wnt pathway can increase the effectiveness of SSTR-targeted PRRT.

Why is this important?

Because SSTR2 expression is a common feature of GEP-NET tumor cells, PRRT targets and binds to this receptor to kill growing or metastatic GEP-NETs. Unfortunately, this therapy is limited by the variable expression of SSTR2, especially among patients with advanced disease. Strategies to boost SSTR2 expression would significantly enhance this therapeutic approach.

What will you do as part of this research project?

We will explore how the Wnt pathway targets and degrades SSTR2 and identify drugs that interfere with this process. My team and I will then show that treating animal tumor models with Wnt pathway inhibitors improves detection and treatment of GEP-NET tumors. 

How might your research improve the treatment of NETs?

Increasing SSTR2 expression would widen the patient population that is eligible for PRRT and may increase the treatment’s efficacy in patients whose tumors express the SSTR2 receptor.

What is your next step?

If this project is successful, we will extend the study to preclinical NET models to determine how the approach may be successfully translated into patient care.