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CTF Researcher in the News

UF Insider, the official online publication of the University of Florida College of Medicine, recently published an article about Margaret “Peggy” Wallace, Ph.D., a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of molecular genetics and microbiology, and recipient of a Children’s Tumor Foundation contract award.


A University of Florida Health researcher who specializes in studying tumors that form on nerve tissue now has a new way to probe deeper into the genetic disorder.

Margaret “Peggy” Wallace, Ph.D., a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of molecular genetics and microbiology, is developing cell lines that will help advance neurofibromatosis research. A two-year, $250,000 award from the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF) is funding the work.

Neurofibromatosis has three forms, all of them involving progressive formation of benign Schwann cell tumors throughout life. The genetic abnormalities cause slow-growing tumors to grow on nerves, leading to problems that can range from cosmetic to life-threatening. While the tumors are usually benign, they can also kill some patients by becoming malignant or destroying adjacent organs and tissues.

The three forms of neurofibromatosis — neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1), neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2), and schwannomatosis — affect more than 2 million people worldwide, according to the CTF.

“When these cells do go awry, they start growing in and through the nerve fibers, causing everything to enlarge,” Wallace said.

There is no cure for the tumors, but treatment typically involves removing the ones that are causing problems. This treatment is unsatisfactory and poses a dilemma: Removing all of a tumor ruins the attached nerve, but leaving part of the tumor behind to preserve nerve function can allow it to grow back. About 10 to 15 percent of NF1 tumors become cancerous. Treating NF2 sometimes means removing auditory nerve tumors, which can lead to deafness. Schwannomatosis can cause severe, debilitating pain and neurological problems. Drug therapies to stop or prevent tumor growth are desperately needed, but that requires more knowledge about these growths.

Research into the trio of disorders has been hindered by a lack of tumor tissues and pure tumor cell lines to study, according to Wallace.

“Without sufficient material to study, we don’t have as many clues about what’s going wrong in these tumors,” she said.

Having tumors from different people is also important in order to learn how they can vary, and to develop a range of therapies specific to different tumor types, Wallace said.

That’s where the foundation’s funding comes into play.

Click here for the complete article.