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Key bone marrow protein identified as potential new leukemia treatment target
Date:4/15/2013

(WASHINGTON, April 15, 2013) A new study on how the progression of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is influenced by the bone marrow environment has demonstrated for the first time that targeting a specialized protein known as osteopontin (OPN) may be an effective strategy to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy in patients with this type of blood cancer. Study data were published online today in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology (ASH).

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of white blood cells, which normally fight infection in the body. ALL develops when abnormal white blood cells grow quickly but do not properly develop, crowding out normal cells and inhibiting healthy function. While patients with ALL typically experience good initial responses to treatment with chemotherapy, many suffer relapses and their disease becomes extremely difficult to treat (refractory) when a small percentage of abnormal cells reemerge after having evaded the effects of the cytotoxic drug. Relapsed disease arises from residual malignant cells below the level of detection at the time the patient has his or her initial response (a condition known as minimal residual disease or MRD).

Treatment strategies aimed at combating chemotherapy resistance and reducing MRD may have the potential to increase overall survival.

Previous studies have demonstrated that, even when MRD is not completely eradicated, a reduction in MRD burden correlates with significantly higher overall survival. One proposed approach to improving chemotherapy efficacy and reducing MRD includes identifying lingering, dormant leukemic cells and forcing them into active cell division to make them responsive to treatment, since chemotherapy targets cells that are rapidly dividing.

"Previous studies have suggested that osteopontin (OPN), a protein present in the bone marrow, may regulate the way tumor cells grow and spread throughout the body; however,
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Contact: Andrea Slesinski
aslesinski@hematology.org
202-552-4927
American Society of Hematology
Source:Eurekalert

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