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New drug for children with high-risk leukemia
Date:7/28/2009

Each year, approximately 4,500 children in America are diagnosed with leukemia, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A potentially deadly cancer of the blood, it is the most common cancer in children.

"Modern medicine can cure eight out of 10 cases of childhood leukemia, so parents can still be hopeful when they hear a diagnosis," says Dr. Shai Izraeli of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center. "Our research gives hope and life to the 20% who might not make it as well as those who may experience a relapse."

The first researchers to discover a mutation of the JAK2 protein in patients with Down syndrome, the Tel Aviv University team suspected that this protein might also be linked to other disorders and diseases ― and they were right. Based on the successful results of this research a drug that is already in clinical trials for a blood disease common in adults may be relevant for acute childhood leukemia. If initial trials go well, the drug could fast-track through approvals and could be available for treating children with leukemia in only a few years.

The recent findings are based on Dr. Izraeli's original discovery of the JAK2 in Down syndrome, published recently in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet.

Finding a model in children with Down syndrome

According to Dr. Izraeli, a similar mutation of the JAK2 in Down syndrome and leukemia causes Polycythemia Vera, a disease common in adults that leads to the overproduction of blood. This discovery of a similar mutation in a subset of pediatric leukemia cases may provide a path to new life-saving medication options.

Dr. Izraeli first discovered JAK2 mutations in children who initially suffered from Down syndrome and subsequently developed leukemia (a child with Down syndrome is 20 to 30 times more likely to develop leukemia during childhood than a child without it). Dr. Izraeli was then
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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