Gene profiles could pinpoint leukemia stem cells

U.S. researchers have found a genetic profile that could identify drugs that harvest the growth of leukemia stem cells. The subpopulation of cells tend to be resistant to cancer therapies, and could even be the root cause of the cancer.

The researchers, led by scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), examined mouse models and human leukemia specimens, discovering around 70 genes that played a role in growth and survival of both primitive and more mature leukemia cells. By using the Broad Institute's Connectivity Map, which allows researchers to search for drugs that mimic the genomic disease signatures, the team found two examples so far that could target these rogue cells. Both are drugs in development, and though it's too early to confirm their role, it provides a proof of concept for the idea.

"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 URMC's Craig Jordan, in a statement.

Cancer stem cells are an increasingly hot topic in cancer diagnosis and treatment in many different cancer types, and it is possible that by targeting these it could be possible to tackle drug resistance in a range of cancers and even block metastasis in solid tumors.

- see the abstract
- check out the press release


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