SALT LAKE CITYLeukemia is the most common childhood cancer; it also occurs in adults. Now researchers working with zebrafish at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah have identified previously undiscovered high-risk genetic features in T-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia (T-ALL), according to an article published online May 9, 2011, in the cancer research journal Oncogene. When compared to samples from human patients with T-ALL, these genetic characteristics allowed scientists to predict which patients may have more aggressive forms of the disease that either recur after remission or do not respond to treatment.
While there are several subtypes, in all leukemias the body overproduces certain blood cells that have not matured properly. In this study, the researchers investigated a particular type of leukemia that results from genetic mutations in T-cells, a type of white blood cell found in both humans and zebrafish.
Using a technique called serial transplantation, the research team studied T-ALL in zebrafish and selected cancer cells from those in which the disease advanced more rapidly for further testing. This method allowed the research team to zero in on genes associated with T-ALL's most aggressive forms. They then compared these genetic features to samples from human patients whose clinical outcomes with T-ALL are known.
"We can cure 80% of the children who come to us with leukemia, but there are 20 percent we cannot cure. Sometime the cures come at a high cost to patients in immediate and delayed side effects from chemotherapy," said Nikolaus Trede, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah (U of U) School of Medicine, HCI investigator, and a senior author of the article. "These results may lead to tests that can show which children with the disease need the strongest chemotherapy to overcome their cancer. Children with less aggressive forms of leukemia c
|Contact: Linda Aagard|
University of Utah Health Sciences