Signaling Protein Could Be Target for Leukemia Chemo

GSK3 apparently plays double role in activating and inhibiting cell growth, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A promising new chemotherapy target for a deadly form of leukemia has been discovered by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

They found that glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) -- a molecular signal that regulates cell growth -- promotes mixed-lineage leukemia, which accounts for 5 percent to 10 percent of child and adult leukemias and more than three-quarters of infant leukemias.

The study was published online Sept. 17 in Nature.

"This finding was quite unexpected. GSK3 has never been implicated in promoting cancer," study senior author Dr. Michael Cleary, a professor of pathology and of pediatrics, said in a Stanford news release.

Previous research actually found that GSK3 stops uncontrolled cell growth, preventing several forms of cancer.

But in petri dish and laboratory animal tests, the Stanford researchers determined that inhibiting GSK3 fights mixed-lineage leukemia, which suggests GSK3 may be an effective target for new kinds of drugs to fight this disease.

"There is intense interest in coming up with better ways to treat these patients," said Cleary, a member of the Stanford Cancer Center.

Now that they've identified GSK3 as a potential drug target, the Stanford team is studying how GSK3 actually fuels mixed-lineage leukemia. They're also starting to search for powerful GSK3 inhibitors that would be safe in humans.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about leukemia.

SOURCE: Stanford University Medical Center, news release, Sept. 17, 2008
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