A potential new way to make a good anti-leukemia drug even better

October 20, 2008

A recently identified cancer-causing protein makes the anti-leukemia drug imatinib, less effective. By blocking the protein, an international team of researchers was able to slow the spread of leukemia cells in culture. The study, which will appear online on October 20 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggests that the most effective treatment for leukemia may rely on a combination of targeted drugs, rather than a single miracle drug.

Imatinib is currently the most popular therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). CML is a type of blood cancer that is most common among middle-aged adults and accounts for 15-20% of all cases of adult leukemia in the western world. Accumulation of cancer cells in the patient's blood causes infections, anemia, and other potentially life-threatening complications.

CML is associated with the abnormal fusion of a portion of chromosome 21 with a cell growth-promoting enzyme called ABL, which makes the enzyme perpetually active. Imatinib slows down the spread of cancer by blocking the enzyme's activity. But the drug doesn't work in everyone and resistance often develops, most likely because the drug only targets mature cells, leaving self-renewing cancer stem cells behind.

Now, Xiaoyan Jiang and a team of researchers from the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver and other institutions may have discovered what protects the stem cells from imatinib. The team found that a protein called AHI-1, which has been found in leukemia cells in the past, is highly expressed in CML stem cells. When Zhou and colleagues blocked AHI-1 in cancer cells from imatinib-resistant CML patients, they restored the ability of the drug to kill the cells. The next step, says Jiang is finding a drug that blocks AHI-1, which could potentially be given in combination with imatinib in the future.

Source: Rockefeller University

Explore further: Scientists build a better cancer drug to pass through blood-brain barrier

Related Stories

New treatment approved for soft-tissue cancers

October 19, 2016

(HealthDay)—Lartruvo (olaratumab) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat adults with certain soft-tissue sarcomas, cancers that develop in areas such as the muscles, fat, blood vessels and tendons.

Fission yeast may be used to find the next cancer cure

October 21, 2016

Cancer is a notoriously difficult disease to treat. Not only do a wide variety of cancers exist, requiring specialized treatments for each type, but cancer cells within an individual can morph and render previously potent ...

Recommended for you

Hormone that controls maturation of fat cells discovered

October 25, 2016

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a hormone that controls the first step in the maturation of fat cells. Its actions help explain how high-fat diets, stress and certain steroid medications ...

The tale of the bats, dark matter and a plastic surgeon

October 25, 2016

What happens when a plastic surgeon meets a bat expert zoologist and a paleobiologist? No, it's not a strange Halloween story about spooky bat dinosaurs but rather, a story about a new discovery about bats which may unlock ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.