Fruit Flies for Cancer

Osteoarthritis can lead to severe shoulder pain, wearing down the joint so much that simple movements can become unbearable. Now, a new shoulder replacement is giving patients their reach back.

Larry Green lived with shoulder pain for years, until everyday tasks became debilitating.

"One of the things that, for example, my wife and I do is cuddle at night and I just couldn't get my arm up and around," Larry Green, StepTech patient, told Ivanhoe.

That's when he opted for a new shoulder replacement surgery. You can see in Larry's case there was virtually no cartilage left, just bone on bone. Dr. Jason Scalise says that makes Larry an ideal candidate for StepTech.

"I think that this will be one of those milestones that will help us address significant shoulder arthritis with bone loss," Jason Scalise, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon and
Shoulder Specialist at The CORE Institute, told Ivanhoe.
With this new technique surgeons make a 90 degree cut, preserving as much bone as possible.

"What we do is we make a very precise cut in the bone and then instead of implanting a slanted socket, we can implant a more orientated anatomic socket, which we believe will have better results in the long term," Dr. Scalise explained.

"I have no pain.  I have no pain at all," Larry said.

StepTech patients can be safely out of the sling within the first 24 hours and engage in light activities. The doctor believes about 25 centers nationwide are offering this new approach.

BACKGROUND: Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of sarcoma, which is cancer of soft tissue, connective tissue, or bone.  It is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children and can begin in many places in the body. However, it usually begins in muscles that are attached to bones and that help the body move.  Soft tissues of the body connect, support, and surround other organs and body parts.  Soft tissues include: nerves, fat, blood vessels, lymph vessels, fat, muscles, tendons, and synovial tissues (tissues around joints). There are three main types of rhabdomyosarcoma: embryonal, alveolar, and anaplastic.  Embryonal, which is the most common type, occurs most often in the head and neck area or in the urinary or genital organs.  Alveolar occurs in the arms or legs, chest, genital organs, abdomen, or anal area, and it usually occurs in the teen years. Anaplastic is a rare type that occurs in children.  (Source:

RISK FACTORS:  Risk factors include the following inherited diseases: Noonan syndrome, Costello syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, pleuropulmonary blastoma, neurofibromatosis type 1, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome.  Children who had a high birth weight or were bigger than expected at birth have an increased risk of embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma.  (Source:

SYMPTOMS:  Childhood rhabdomyosarcoma can cause lumps and other symptoms, but the symptoms depend on where the cancer forms.  Symptoms can include bulging of the eye, blood in the urine, bleeding in the nose, throat, vagina, or rectum, headache, trouble urinating or having bowel movements, and swelling that keeps getting bigger and more painful. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: The traditional treatments of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation for rhabdomyosarcoma can result in disfigurements and disabilities.  The newest breakthrough in improving treatments comes from UT Southwestern Medical Center.  Researchers identified the role for a gene, called TANC1, to convert normal muscle cells in fruit flies into cells that behave as aggressive Rhabdo-type cells. By silencing the gene, researchers convert healthy cells to a non-cancerous state. "This suggests a completely different way of caring for Rhabdo - by targeting this particular gene. If we take down TANC1 activity, it essentially rescues these cells from their neoplastic state and gets them to complete their developmental process," Dr. Rene Galindo was quoted as saying.  In a previous fruit fly study, the Galindo lab learned that over-expression of a gene, called PAX-FOXO1, caused muscle cells to improperly fuse.  The newer study revealed that PAX-FOXO1 is dependent on TANC1 in making muscle cells go awry. (Source:


Rene L. Galindo, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pathology, Molecular Biology, and Pediatrics
UT Southwestern Medical Center
(214) 648-4093

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