NEW YORK (Oct. 28, 2012) -- A team of national and international researchers, led by Weill Cornell Medical College scientists, have decoded the key "software" instructions that drive three of the most virulent forms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). They discovered ALL's "software" is encoded with epigenetic marks, chemical modifications of DNA and surrounding proteins, allowing the research team to identify new potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets.
The research, published in Cancer Discovery, is the first study to show how these three different forms of white blood cell cancer are epigenetically programmed by several different molecules controlling cascading biological networks that manipulate normal gene function, directing cancer development and growth.
"Epigenetic programming is the software that is written on to human DNA, which can be viewed as its hard drive. This programming contains the instructions that determine how cells including leukemia cells function and cause disease," says the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ari Melnick, associate professor of medicine and director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical and Physical Sciences at Weill Cornell Medical College.
"Finding the instructions that ultimately lead to cancer development, and to the especially bad outcome seen in patients with these different forms of ALL, is especially urgent. Epigenetic instructions are contained in many chemical layers. Our study is the first to integrate the decoding of many layers simultaneously, which has enabled us to unlock some of the mysteries explaining the malignant and aggressive behavior of these leukemias," says Dr. Melnick, who is also a hematologist-oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Abnormal Epigenetic Programming Leads to Poor Outcomes
The research team examined abnormalities in the "software" epigenetic programming that l
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New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College