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Models for Wilms tumor research

Memphis, Tennessee, December 20, 2019

Three doctors gather around data and discuss findings.

Emilia Modolo Pinto, Ph.D., Andrew Jackson Murphy, M.D. and Xiang Chen, Ph.D., discuss their collaborative research on Wilms tumor subtypes.

By modeling a disease in the lab, researchers can test potential treatments. Clinicians can then use the most promising options in clinical trials. St. Jude scientists have created a unique set of models for Wilms tumor research.

Wilms tumor is the most common type of kidney cancer in children. This disease is treated with surgery, radiation and chemo. Many patients do well, but some types of Wilms tumor have poor outcomes.

Diffuse anaplasia (a specific cell makeup) is found in 6% of Wilms tumor cases but results in 50% of deaths. Bilateral Wilms tumor (in both kidneys) and relapsed Wilms tumor are also high risk.

St. Jude researchers created 45 lab models based on patient Wilms tumor samples.

The models include diffuse anaplasia, bilateral and relapsed Wilms tumors. The team studied the biology of these models. They also tested them against chemo. The results in the models mimicked what is seen in patients.

“Wilms tumor is usually very treatable, but there are three subgroups of patients who continue to do poorly,” said Andrew Murphy, MD, of St. Jude Surgery. “We created these models to help us test new therapies and learn more about these high-risk types.”

Nature Communications published a report on this work.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening disorders. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% since the hospital opened more than 60 years ago. St. Jude shares the breakthroughs it makes to help doctors and researchers at local hospitals and cancer centers around the world improve the quality of treatment and care for even more children. To learn more, visit, read St. Jude Progress, a digital magazine, and follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.