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Genome reveals clues for better diagnosis and treatment of rare adrenal cancer


One hurdle to curing more young patients with a rare adrenal cancer has been the difficulty identifying which tumors are malignant and dangerous and which are not. There are few markers to help doctors know which tumors are most likely to return after treatment and spread.

A St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital study offers new clues that may improve diagnosis and treatment for adrenocortical tumors (ACT). With current treatment, about half of young ACT patients are alive and cancer free five years later.

Scientists studied the DNA and RNA of 37 ACT patients in great detail. The tumors develop in a part of the adrenal gland called the cortex. The adrenal glands sit above each kidney.

Researchers found that mutations in genes called ATRX and TP53 may lead to more aggressive tumors and a poorer outcome. The next step will be to confirm the findings in more patients.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications. The authors include Emilia M. Pinto, PhD, and Gerard P. Zambetti, PhD, both of Pathology; Xiang Chen, PhD, and Jinghui Zhang, PhD, both of St. Jude Computational Biology; and Raul C. Ribeiro, MD, of Oncology.

March 6, 2015

Read the news release