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Double assault on tough types of leukemias
Date:9/20/2012

Investigators at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have identified two promising therapies to treat patients with acute megakaryocytic leukemia (AMKL), a rare form of leukemia where the number of cases is expected to increase with the aging population.

The disease is characterized by an overload of white blood cells that remain forever young because they can't mature into specialized cells. Published in a recent issue of the journal Cell, the study found that the drug with the generic name alisertib (MLN8237), induced division and growth of healthy cells to overtake the proliferation or "blasts" of immature cells.

In the study, a mouse model with this leukemia that was treated with alisertib showed a striking reduction in the number of leukemia cells, including dramatic reductions in overwhelming white cell counts and the weights of their spleens and livers, which are indications of leukemia.

Alisertib has been tested before in humans with limited success to treat other types of leukemia and lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. However, the drug should be effective against AKML in humans because it specifically targets the enzyme Aurora A kinase, said study senior author John Crispino, the Robert I. Lurie, MD, and Lora S. Lurie Professor of Hematology/Oncology at Feinberg. In normal cell development, this enzyme enables healthy cells to proliferate correctly, but with leukemia, is also allows adolescent cells to multiply unchecked if they are in the mix.

Crispino also is a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

"Alisertib was really potent against the proliferation of cancer cells," Crispino said. "We were incredibly excited when we found that the drug we predict will reverse AMKL is already far along in clinical development. The fact that we don't have to start from scratch means we could be years closer to finding an effective therapy." '/>"/>

Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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