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Cancer sequencing project identifies potential approaches to combat aggressive leukemia
Date:1/11/2012

Researchers have discovered that a subtype of leukemia characterized by a poor prognosis is fueled by mutations in pathways distinctly different from a seemingly similar leukemia associated with a much better outcome. The findings from the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project (PCGP) highlight a possible new strategy for treating patients with this more aggressive cancer.

The work provides the first details of the genetic alterations fueling a subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) known as early T-cell precursor ALL (ETP-ALL). The results suggest ETP-ALL has more in common with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) than with other subtypes of ALL. The study appears in the January 12 edition of the journal Nature.

ALL is the most common childhood cancer and about 12 percent of patients have T-ALL. T-ALL arises from T-lineage white blood cells that make up one branch of the immune system. ETP-ALL was discovered by St. Jude researchers and accounts for about 12 percent of T-cell ALL. Many ETP-ALL patients fail to respond to current therapy and never enter remission. Only 30 to 40 percent of these patients become long-term survivors, compared to about 80 percent of children battling other T-ALL subtypes.

"The mutations and gene expression profile we identified in this study suggest that patients with ETP-ALL might benefit from treatment that includes drugs developed for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia," said Charles Mullighan, M.D., Ph.D., an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Pathology and one of the study's corresponding authors.

Mullighan said ETP-ALL was selected for inclusion in the pediatric cancer genome project due to the poor outcome and the lack of information on the genetic lesions that underlie this aggressive subtype of leukemia. "St. Jude is a pioneer in increasing overall ALL survival rates, which today exceed 90 percent for St. Jude pati
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Contact: Carrie Strehlau
media@stjude.org
901-595-2295
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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