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Knocking Out Leukemia With a One-Two Punch

Scientists say they've found a new treatment target for CML

WEDNESDAY, April 20, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- New insights into just how malignant cells in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) kill healthy bone marrow cells could lead to better treatments for the blood cancer.

Researchers report that CML cells use a unique cell "death factor" to destroy health cells in bone marrow, and does not simply "crowd out" these cells, as has long been believed.

The "death factor" -- a destructive protein called 24p3 -- works to promote leukemia development by making room for the cancer to grow and spread. This makes it easier for the cancer to invade the bone marrow and spleen, report scientists at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston.

In mouse cell experiments, the researchers also found that blocking the 24p3 protein with an antibody restrained the protein's ability to kill normal bone marrow cells. This indicates that a therapy that could disable 24p3 might benefit CML patients when used in combination with traditional treatment, such as Gleevec.

"We don't yet have a therapy that can be tested in humans, but our hope is that this work can lead to development of such a one-two punch," principal investigator Ralph Arlinghaus, professor and chair of the department of molecular pathology, said in a prepared statement.

The findings were presented April 19 at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, in Anaheim, Calif.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about CML.

SOURCE: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, news release, April 19, 2005
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