University of Rochester Medical Center scientists believe they are the first to identify genes that underlie the growth of primitive leukemia stem cells, and then to use the new genetic signature to identify currently available drugs that selectively target the rogue cells.
Although it is too early to attach significance to the drug candidates, two possible matches popped up: A drug in development for breast cancer (not approved by the Food and Drug Administration), and another experimental agent that, coincidentally, had been identified earlier by a URMC laboratory as an agent that targets leukemia cells.
The research not only provides a better understanding of the basic biology of leukemia it uncovered genes not previously known to be associated with the disease -- but demonstrates a powerful strategy for drug discovery, said senior investigator Craig T. Jordan, Ph.D., the Philip and Marilyn Wehrheim professor of Medicine at URMC and the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.
First author John Ashton, PhD, led the study, which was published this month in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
"Our work is both basic and translational, and is an example of a terrific collaboration," Jordan said. "We were able to use the latest technology to expand very strong basic laboratory concepts and conduct an intriguing analysis that may yield new insights for treatments of leukemia."
Jordan studies leukemia stem cells, which, unlike normal cells, renew uncontrollably and are believed to be the first cells at the root of malignancy. He collaborated with Hartmut (Hucky) Land, Ph.D. and Helene McMurray, Ph.D., investigators in the Biomedical Genetics Dept at URMC, who study the principle that cancer evolves from a unique, interactive network of genes that are governed by a distinct set of rules.
In 2008 Land's laboratory published a paper in Nature reporting on a pool of approximately 100 genes that cooperate to promote colon cancer. The Land laboratory coi
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University of Rochester Medical Center