Potential therapeutic target for deadly form of childhood leukaemia found

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London, Dec 15 (ANI): Scientists from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and the University of Virginia have found a gene that can act as a potential therapeutic target for deadly form of childhood leukemia called mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL).

MLL is caused by a critical gene that regulates hundreds of other genes in blood cells. The problem occurs when this regulatory gene breaks in half and another gene attaches to it, creating a fusion gene. It's this fusion gene that turns a normal cell into a proliferating cancer cell.

"This hopefully will lead to an effective therapeutic approach for patients who generally do not do well with current treatments," said second senior author Dr Nancy Zeleznik-Le, a professor in the Department of Medicine at Loyola Stritch.

A drug might help disable the protein that turns normal blood cells into cancer cells.

This fusion gene codes for a MLL fusion protein. The MLL fusion protein in turn binds to hundreds of other genes.

Consequently, these genes are permanently turned on. So instead of aging and dying like a normal cell, the cell turns cancerous, continually growing and dividing into new cancer cells.

Zeleznik-Le said researchers are likely to get ready to test potential drug compounds on laboratory animals within a year.

The study appears in journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. (ANI)

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