The rise of testicular germ cell tumours: The search for causes, risk factors and novel therapeutic targets

Skye C. McIver, Shaun D. Roman, Brett Nixon, Kate L. Loveland, Eileen A. McLaughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Since the beginning of the 20th century there has been a decline in the reproductive vitality of men within the Western world. The declining sperm quantity and quality has been associated with increased overt disorders of sexual development including hypospadias, undescended testes and type II testicular germ cell tumours (TGCTs). The increase in TGCTs cannot be accounted for by genetic changes in the population. Therefore exposure to environmental toxicants appears to be a major contributor to the aetiology of TGCTs and men with a genetic predisposition are particularly vulnerable. In particular, Type II TGCTs have been identified to arise from a precursor lesion Carcinoma in situ (CIS), identified as a dysfunctional gonocyte; however, the exact triggers for CIS development are currently unknown. Therefore the transition from gonocytes into spermatogonia is key to those studying TGCTs. Recently we have identified seven miRNA molecules (including members of the miR-290 family and miR-136, 463* and 743a) to be significantly changed over this transition period. These miRNA molecules are predicted to have targets within the CXCR4, PTEN, DHH, RAC and PDGF pathways, all of which have important roles in germ cell migration, proliferation and homing to the spermatogonial stem cell niche. Given the plethora of potential targets affected by each miRNA molecule, subtle changes in miRNA expression could have significant consequences e.g. tumourigenesis. The role of non-traditional oncogenes and tumour suppressors such as miRNA in TGCT is highlighted by the fact that the majority of these tumours express wild type p53, a pivotal tumour suppressor usually inactivated in cancer. While treatment of TGCTs is highly successful, the impact of these treatments on fertility means that identification of exact triggers, earlier diagnosis and alternate treatments are essential. This review examines the genetic factors and possible triggers of type II TGCT to highlight target areas for potential new treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalF1000Research
Volume2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes

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