WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Monday, May 16, 2011 A new discovery in mice by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center may one day allow doctors to spare some patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) from toxic treatments, while also opening the door for new therapeutic research.
AML, the most common form of acute leukemia seen in adults, is an aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects the elderly. Despite years of research, outcomes for most patients remain poor, particularly for one subset of patients with a specific mutation of the FLT3 receptor.
At a microscopic level, each cell's surface is covered in proteins that allow for signals on the outside of a cell to "turn on" various activities inside that cell. FLT3 is one of those receptor proteins. Mutations of the FLT3 receptor are among the most common mutations seen in the disease affecting about 20 to 30 percent of AML patients and have been associated with worse prognosis.
A new study, published recently in the journal Experimental Hematology, reveals that one particular mutation of the FLT3 receptor, called internal tandem duplication (ITD), alters the patient's responsiveness to standard therapy.
"This research uses a mouse model to define the changes in chemotherapy response that the presence of the FLT3-ITD causes," said Timothy S. Pardee, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of hematology and oncology and lead author of the study. "While its affect on prognosis has been well documented, its affect on therapy response has been poorly understood."
Pardee and colleagues used mice that had leukemia, either with or without the FLT3-ITD, to examine the effects of the mutation on responsiveness to two drugs used in combination as standard chemotherapy treatment for AML patients: cytarabine and doxorubicin. Both drugs work by altering the DNA of cells in different ways, causing them to essentially commit suicide.
|Contact: Jessica Guenzel|
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center