Thymus is an irregular shape gland which is located under the breastbone (sternum) in upper chest. The organ is divided into two halves known as lobes and is made up of many small bumps called as lobules. Thymus plays an important role in maintaining the body’s immune system. During fetal development and childhood thymus gland is involved in the production and maturation of T lymphocytes (T cells). T cells are developed in the thymus and travel to lymph nodes throughout the body. These T cells are responsible for fighting against viruses, bacteria, fungi and various other infection causing agent. Thymus gland is fully developed at the age of puberty but gradually the gland shrinks and becomes inactive. However, the gland continues to produce T cells until old age.
Thymus cancers (Thymomas and thymic cancers) are rare tumors and originate from thymic epithelial cells. It is estimated, in the U.S that approximately 400 cases per year are diagnosed for thymus cancers. People suffering from thymomas show symptoms of shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, weight loss and others. The cancer is benign and people aged between 40 years and 60 years are usually diagnosed with thymomas. As thymus gland is involved in production of T cells, people suffering from thymus cancers tend to show immune system related illness. For, instance 30% to 50% of people suffering from thymomas show myasthenia gravis (MG), disease condition in which immune system forms antibodies for blocking chemical signals required for muscle movement.
Currently, thymus cancers are diagnosed with the help of various tests including chest X-ray, CT scan, PET scan, Needle biopsy, MRI scan, thoracoscopy and mediastinoscopy. Additionally, surgery and chemotherapy are the main treatment options available for the removal of thymus cancers. Further, clinical trials are being conducted for the treatment of thymus cancer. Some of major players involved in conducting clinical trial therapeutics are Novartis AG, Enzon Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Nerviano Medical Sciences S.r.l.
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