Montreal researchers shed light on common juvenile cancer

Jun 16, 2010

A team of researchers from the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the University of Montreal have defined for the first time the mechanism behind three cancer-causing genes in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Published in the journal Genes and Development, the findings offer insight on the complex interaction between the genes and their contributions to leukemia, thereby providing the foundation for the design of targeted therapies.

The study was conducted by primary authors Mathieu Tremblay, Ph.D. student and Cédric Tremblay, post-doctoral fellow in the Hematopoiesis and Leukemia Laboratory at the Université de Montréal and led by corresponding author and IRIC Principal Investigator, Trang Hoang.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most frequent childhood cancers and affects lymphocytes, the cells in the body that normally fight infections. ALL starts when a single, immature white blood cell called a "blast" develops a series of mistakes or mutations that allow it to multiply uncontrollably. Eventually, these leukemic blasts take over the lymphoid organs, the bone marrow and crowd out normal blood cells.

While extensive research has been conducted over the years to understand this type of cancer, deciphering the complex process responsible for transforming normal cells into cancerous cells remains a challenge. In this study, researchers started from the well-known basis that the interaction between two , SCL and LMO, is involved at the onset of a specific type of ALL, called T-cell leukemia.

"We wanted to uncover the precise mechanism behind the process that causes a normal cell to become cancerous. Our study reveals that SCL and LMO expand the pool of immature lymphocytes, which proliferate intensively under the influence of a specific signal. These SCL-LMO-primed cells then acquire mutations in a third gene, Notch1, which is known to play a role in the majority of T-ALL patients," explains Trang Hoang. "In short, the synergy between these three genes in a permissive cell is sufficient to induce leukemia."

Although chemotherapy can cure up to 80 percent of ALL in children, researchers hope to minimize the side effects by designing new therapies that specifically target cancer causing genes. "The knowledge from our study could be instrumental in the development of less invasive therapies," adds Dr. Hoang.

Explore further: Second-line cetuximab active beyond progression in quadruple wild-type patients with mCRC

More information: Genes and Development : genesdev.cshlp.org/content/24/11/1093.abstract

Related Stories

New gateway to treat leukemia and other cancers

Mar 25, 2010

Canadian researchers have discovered a previously hidden channel to attack leukemia and other cancer cells, according to a new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The findings from the Université de Mon ...

Gene loss causes leukemia: study

May 17, 2010

Researchers from VIB and K.U.Leuven, both in Flanders, Belgium, have discovered a new factor in the development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease that mainly affects children. In the cells of the patients, the specific ...

Major gene study uncovers secrets of leukemia

Mar 07, 2007

Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have discovered previously unsuspected mutations that contribute to the formation of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common cancer in children. ...

Unique role for blood formation gene identified

Sep 12, 2007

All blood cell production in adults depends on the steady work of a vital gene that if lost results in early bone marrow failure, Dartmouth Medical School cancer geneticists have found. Their research reveals an unexpected ...

Recommended for you

Spicy treatment the answer to aggressive cancer?

Jul 03, 2015

It has been treasured by food lovers for thousands of years for its rich golden colour, peppery flavour and mustardy aroma…and now turmeric may also have a role in fighting cancer.

Cancer survivors who smoke perceive less risk from tobacco

Jul 02, 2015

Cancer survivors who smoke report fewer negative opinions about smoking, have more barriers to quitting, and are around other smokers more often than survivors who had quit before or after their diagnosis, according to a ...

Melanoma mutation rewires cell metabolism

Jul 02, 2015

A mutation found in most melanomas rewires cancer cells' metabolism, making them dependent on a ketogenesis enzyme, researchers at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have discovered.

User comments : 0

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.