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Kotaro Sasaki and his team unveil the genetics of testicular cancer

By: Nathi Magubane Date: Jun 18, 2024

Seminoma, a type of testicular cancer that predominantly affects young men, is the most common testicular germ cell tumor and is characterized by its similarity to primordial germ cells (PGCs), the precursor to sperm cells that form early in embryonic development. Despite a generally favorable prognosis with high cure rates through chemotherapy, approximately 10% of seminoma cases exhibit resistance, leading to metastasis and challenging relapses.

Research on seminoma to develop better treatments has been impeded by the lack of relevant mouse models and the scarcity of seminoma samples. Additionally, the tumor itself is complex, with varied cell types and a significant presence of immune cells, making it hard to analyze in bulk.

Kotaro Sasak 
Kotaro Sasaki

These obstacles hinder comprehensively understanding seminoma's genetic and molecular underpinnings,” says Kotaro Sasaki, a physician scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine who is leading the charge on researching the biology of urogenital cancers at the molecular level.

In a paper published in the journal Cell Reports, a team led by Sasaki and collaborators developed the first in vitro seminoma model andpresented the most comprehensive single-cell atlas of human male germ cell development reported to date, shedding light on chromosomal anomalies and signaling pathways that may contribute to seminoma development.

“Our study, which used samples from various stages of early human male development, has provided key insights,” Sasaki says. “We now better understand the origins, chromosomal anomalies, and signaling pathways involved. And most excitingly, we have developed the first in vitro seminoma model, a vital step toward understanding and potentially treating the disease.”

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About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 34,600 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.