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New research strategy for understanding drug resistance in leukemia
Date:9/4/2009

ted the mouse model of AML through two key steps. First they utilized a strain of mice that had a single gene mutation closely resembling the mutation found in leukemia and some other cancers. Then they introduced an infectious particle called a retrovirus, which produces additional mutations that work together and result in AML. The retrovirus also "tags" these new genetic mutations, which allows researchers to identify them later on. These steps resulted in a model of AML that, like human AML and other advanced cancers, has several genetic mutations that interact with one another.

To assess the effectiveness of the MEK inhibitor, the researchers compared a group of mice with AML that was treated with the drug to a group that was left untreated and found that the drug increased survival time threefold. However, all of the leukemia cells that initially responded to the drug later relapsed, which is similar to what happens in many human patients.

"This shows that even if you make what seems to be a really good drug, resistance is a major problem that must be overcome," said Shannon, who is also a leader of the hematopoietic malignancies research program at UCSF's Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In the next phase of the study, the research team set out to uncover the genes that triggered drug resistance by comparing cells from the original drug responsive AML to those of the relapsed AML. Because AML in the mouse model had been created with a retrovirus, the new mutations that caused the leukemia to relapse could be pinpointed through forward genetic analyses. These analyses identified two new single gene mutations that rendered the MEK inhibitor ineffective and brought about the relapsed AML.

According to the researchers, this same method can be used to study other types of cancer in order to identify additional genes responsible for drug resistance. "The hope is that this new strategy will enable us to identify mo
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Contact: Kate Schoen
kschoen@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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