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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Discovery Aided Quest for Adult Cancer Drug
Date:9/29/2011

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A drug recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of an adult cancer targets a malfunctioning gene discovered more than a decade earlier at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The story highlights how scientific findings from St. Jude can be translated into therapies and tests that in addition to helping children, also help adults.

The drug is Xalkori (crizotinib). The FDA approved Xalkori in August as the first targeted therapy for patients with ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that is locally advanced or metastatic. Xalkori is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The ALK gene was discovered by St. Jude scientists searching for genes affected by a chromosomal change common in the cancer cells of patients with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).The blood cancer accounts for 10 to 30 percent of pediatric non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In 1994 Stephan Morris, M.D., then a St. Jude junior faculty member; Thomas Look, M.D., then chair of a St. Jude department; and their colleagues, published the first of several reports detailing the discovery of ALK and the gene's pivotal role in driving the cancer. ALK is short for anaplastic lymphoma kinase, the name investigators gave the protein whose assembly instructions the gene carried.

ALK is now widely recognized as a potent promoter of several adult and childhood cancers, including ALCL and neuroblastoma, a childhood tumor of certain nerve cells. The work done by Morris, Look and their colleagues in a fifth-floor laboratory of the Danny Thomas Research Center eventually helped to launch a new targeted cancer treatment.

Hiroyuki Mano, M.D., of the University of Tokyo, led the 2007 research into the molecular drivers of NSCLC. The study showed some NSCLC tumors were driven by an ALK rearrangement. Following this discovery, Pfizer expanded a Phase I clinica
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SOURCE St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
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