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: Surgery associated with better survival for patients with advanced laryngeal cancer

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

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

How 'wriggling' skin cancer cells go on the move

15 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at King's College London have discovered a new way that melanoma skin cancer cells can invade healthy tissue and spread round the body, according to research published in Nature Co ...

User comments : 0