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Melting Away of Leukemia

Published: 2018-01-08 |

Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Cancer researchers today announced they have developed a way of sideling one of the most dangerous "bad actors" in leukemia. Their approach depends on throwing a molecular wrench into the gears of an important machine that sets genes into motion, enabling cancer cells to proliferate. In tests in mice, the newly discovered method has resulted in what the researchers describe as the "melting away" of aggressive blood cancers while at the same time having no harmful impact on the function of normal cells.

The new research by Associate Professor Christopher Vakoc and colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is part of a broader effort in Vakoc's lab to fight the often fatal acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by disabling parts of the machinery in cells----called the transcriptional machinery---that determines when genes are switched on and off.

Central players in this machinery are proteins called transcription factors, thousands of which are active in regulating genes across our chromosomes. The question addressed in the new research, published today in Cancer Cell, was how to target one of the most troublesome transcription factors, called MYB. It's an oncogenic, or cancer-inducing, transcription factor that enables cells to blow through the stop signs that normally prevent out-of-control growth.

"MYB is a dream target in cancer research," says Vakoc, "because it's involved in so many cancers; in leukemia it's special because we know from previous research that by targeting MYB you can get AML not just to stop growing but actually to regress. "Deactivating MYB in cancer has been a goal of many research labs.

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