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New mutations in leukemia: Researchers found mechanism that can help design future therapies
Date:9/4/2011

An international team of researchers has found a group of mutations involved in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), and showed that certain drugs, already in clinical use to treat other diseases, can eliminate the cells carrying these mutations.

Results* will be published next week in Nature Genetics and may promote the development of novel therapeutic approaches against leukemia.

The study was led by researcher Joo T. Barata at Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal, jointly with J. Andres Yunes at Centro Infantil Boldrini in Campinas, So Paulo, Brazil, in collaboration with researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, USA, the Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; and other laboratories in Europe and the US.

This is a basic research study with potential clinical impact, which was performed, in part, using samples from pediatric leukemia patients.

T-ALL affects mostly children. It is a blood cancer consisting in an uncontrolled growth in the number of T-lymphocytes (white blood cells from the immune system).

The onset of the disease can be triggered by different genetic mutations in genes involved in the proliferation and differentiation of T-cells.

The identification and study of mutations found in leukemia patients is particularly important to help develop more efficient and targeted therapies. Researchers now found a group of mutations that affect 9% of the patients with T-ALL and that may originate leukemia in these patients.

Most importantly, researchers demonstrated that a set of pharmaceutical drugs can eliminate the effect of these mutations, unraveling a potential therapeutic application for their discovery.

The current study shows that the mutations occur at the gene coding for a protein localized at the surface of T-cells, the interleukin-7 receptor (IL7R).

This protein contacts with both the exterior and the interior of the cells
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Contact: Marta Agostinho
marta-elisa@fm.ul.pt
351-918-485-068
Instituto de Medicina Molecular
Source:Eurekalert

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