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

inspired to screen for gene mutations that could result in increased proliferation of cells. In collaboration with the iBFM Study Group, a European childhood leukemia consortium, 90 cases of Down syndrome leukemia from all over Europe were studied. A JAK2 mutation was found in 20% of these cases.

The discovery represents a unique biological phenomenon. "This is perhaps the first example of two very similar ― but different ― mutations that apparently do the same thing in a cellular protein. But they're associated with two completely different disorders, one that causes polycythemia in adults and the other that causes leukemia in children," says Dr. Izraeli.

"Those children at the highest risk for leukemia may be treated with inhibitors of JAK2," he says. "And because of the existence of polycythemia in adults, there are already drugs to fight polycythemia entering into trials as we speak. We will know in just a few years what these drugs are capable of."

An alternative to chemotherapy

Dr. Izraeli says the discovery offers "potential hope" to children who suffer from leukemia. "JAK2 inhibitors are not based on chemotherapy. The first experiences with these treatments show very few side effects. All that researchers need to do is to expand these clinical trials to children and adults with high-risk leukemia ― and that can happen relatively quickly," says Dr. Izraeli.

Dr. Izraeli explains that typical chemotherapies for leukemia also have a high "toxicity cost." Children with leukemia are treated with 10 to 12 different chemotherapies over a period of two to three years. Some of them have long-term and irreversible damage, such as neurological, heart, bone problems and sterility. Researchers looking for viable alternatives may turn to Dr. Izraeli's research as a promising avenue for success.


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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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