Thursday, 27 December 2012

Researchers identify enzyme that promotes the growth of Leukemia stem cells

On 24 December 2012, an international team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, announced their new findings regarding Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Specifically, they have identified an enzyme that promotes cancer stem cells to grow and replicate.  With more than 70.000 people suffering from the condition in the U.S. alone, the announcement can be nothing but good news.

Despite the arrival of new treatments for CML, it still remains a tricky condition to fight. This is because in many cases a few cancer stem cells manage to survive. These cancer stem cells, can lay dormant for short or long periods before starting the multiplication process once again, resulting in cancer recurrence and/or metastasis.

The researchers, led by Led by UCSD's Catriona H.M. Jamieson, found that inflammation increases the activity of a specific enzyme that in return induces cancer stem cells to replicate. The enzyme is called adenosine deaminase (ADAR1), and is is encoded by the ADAR gene. Normally ADAR1 is triggered by viral infections, with its main role being to protect normal hematopoietic stem cells from attack.


Image of the Adenosine deaminase enzyme
Adenosine deaminase

In their study, the researchers describe that by knocking down the activity of ADAR1, in mice transplanted with human CML progenitor cells, the ability of cancer stem cells to replicate is greatly hindered.

According to the study:

"Although leukemic burden was not diminished significantly, the LSC self-renewal capacity was irrevocably reduced by ADAR1 knockdown, suggesting that ADAR1 plays a pivotal role in the propagation of leukemia driven by self-renewing malignant progenitors," 

The results of the study are really important, as they could help in the production of better and more effective CML treatments that will also offer a smaller chance of cancer recurrence.

Chronic myelogenous leukaemia, (also known as chronic granulocytic leukaemia) is a cancer of the white blood cells. CML is a clonal bone marrow stem cell disorder characterised by the increased and unregulated growth of predominantly myeloid cells in the bone marrow and the accumulation of these cells in the blood. CML may manifest at any age, however it most commonly affects middle-aged and elder people. It occurs in about 1–2 individuals per 100,000, affecting slightly more men than women.

Video about CML

The press release of the study can be viewed here. 

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