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Researchers identify a 'life-and-death' molecule on chronic leukemia cells
Date:5/30/2012

  • SMIP-016 is a promising experimental drug that kills chronic leukemia cells.
  • The drug targets a protein called CD37, but it wasn't known how this kills leukemia cells.
  • This study showed unexpectedly that CD37 helps regulate both cell-death and cell-survival signals, explaining how the drug works and how it might be improved.

COLUMBUS, Ohio A new study has identified a life-and-death signaling role for a molecule on the surface of the immune cells involved in the most common form of chronic leukemia. The finding could lead to more effective therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), an as yet incurable cancer that occurs in more than 16,000 Americans annually.

The study, led by researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC James), examines how an experimental drug called SMIP-016 kills CLL cells.

Earlier work by the same researchers showed that the drug targets a molecule called CD37, which is found on the surface of CLL cells. In this new study, the researchers discovered that the CD37 molecule has two regions that can concurrently activate two separate pathways in CLL cells, one that leads to cell death and another that promotes cell survival.

The findings show SMIP-016 activates the "death" part of the molecule, and they suggest that blocking the "survival" part of the molecule could improve the drug's effectiveness, the researchers say.

The study is published in the May issue of journal Cancer Cell.

"These findings open new possibilities for the use of immune-based therapy for treating CLL," says principal investigator Dr. John Byrd, a CLL specialist and professor of Medicine, of Medicinal Chemistry and of Veterinary Biosciences.

"We are already targeting the cell-death pathway using SMIP-016, and we might be able to optimize the drug's effectiveness by
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Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Darrell.Ward@osumc.edu
614-293-3737
Ohio State University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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