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Study involving twin sisters provides clues for battling aggressive cancers
Date:2/9/2014

CINCINNATI Analyzing the genomes of twin 3-year-old sisters one healthy and one with aggressive leukemia led an international team of researchers to identify a novel molecular target that could become a way to treat recurring and deadly malignancies.

Scientists in China and the United States report their findings online Feb. 9 in Nature Genetics. The study points to a molecular pathway involving a gene called SETD2, which can mutate in blood cells during a critical step as DNA is being transcribed and replicated.

The findings stem from the uniquely rare opportunity to compare the whole genomes of the monozygotic twin sisters (which means they came from a single egg). This led to a series of follow up experiments in human samples from leukemia patients and mouse models of human disease. Those tests verified and extended initial findings researchers gleaned from the twin sisters' blood samples, according to Gang Huang, PhD, co-corresponding author and a researcher in the divisions of Pathology and Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"We reasoned that monozygotic twins discordant for human leukemia would have identical inherited genetic backgrounds and well-matched tissue-specific events," Huang said. "This provided a strong basis for comparison and analysis. We identified a gene mutation involving SETD2 that contributes to the initiation and progression of leukemia by promoting the self-renewal potential of leukemia stem cells."

The twin sisters' genomes were compared at the laboratory of co-corresponding author Qian-fei Wang, PhD, Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China. The sick sister had a particularly acute and aggressive form of the acute myeloid leukemia (AML) known as MLL, or multi-lineage leukemia.

Acute and aggressive leukemia like MLL develops and progresses rapidly in patients, requiring prompt treatmen
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Contact: Nick Miller
nicholas.miller@cchmc.org
513-803-6035
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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