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Leukaemia cells have a remembrance of things past
Date:4/24/2012

Although people generally talk about "cancer", it is clear that the disease occurs in a bewildering variety of forms. Even single groups of cancers, such as those of the white blood cells, may show widely differing properties. How do the various cancers arise and what factors determine their progression? Clues to these two issues, at least for leukaemias, have now been provided by Boris Kovacic and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna). The results are published in the current issue of the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine and have extremely important consequences for the treatment of a particularly aggressive type of leukaemia.

It is well known that many types of cancer arise as a result of a mutation within a cell and prevailing wisdom has held that the stage of differentiation of this cell determines exactly what form of cancer develops. For example, it was believed that so-called chronic myeloid leukaemia or CML arises from bone marrow stem cells, while a different type of leukaemia, known as B-cell acute lymphoid leukaemia or B-ALL, results from B-cell precursors. This belief has been spectacularly refuted by the latest results from Boris Kovacic and colleagues in the Vetmeduni Vienna's institutes of Animal Breeding and Genetics and of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

The researchers have now shown that both CML and B-ALL arise from the most primordial kind of blood cell (long-term haematopoietic stem cells), although the pathways by which the diseases progress are different. The usual causes of CML and B-ALL are two highly related versions of the same oncogene, BCR/ABL. If the primordial blood cells are transformed or made potentially cancerous by a particular version of BCR/ABL, for technical reasons termed BCR/ABLp210, the result is chronic myeloid leukaemia or CML. The long-term haematopoietic stem cells remain and act as the dreaded cancer stem cells, or CSCs, which ensure that the
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Contact: Dr Boris Kovacic
Boris.Kovacic@vetmeduni.ac.at
43-125-077-5622
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
Source:Eurekalert

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