New mechanism of action in blood cancer has been proven

New mechanism of action in blood cancer has been proven

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The development of blood cancer is influenced by an unknown mechanism of action
Blood cancer can occur in different forms, with the so-called acute myeloid leukemia (AML) being one of the most common blood cancer diseases in adulthood. Scientists at the universities of Gießen and Ulm have investigated the development of this blood cancer in a recent study and discovered a new mechanism of action that could trigger uncontrolled cell growth.

The research team led by Professor Dr. Tilman Borggrefe from the Institute of Biochemistry at the Justus Liebig University Gießen (JLU) has gained new insights into the development of a special AML variant in his current study, according to the JLU. Together with scientists from the University of Ulm, the researchers were able to identify a previously unknown mechanism of action, which apparently has a significant influence on the development of blood cancer. The study results were published in the specialist magazine "Leukemia".

Disorder of blood formation and damage to the organs
Blood cancer in the form of AML manifests itself “among other things through weakness, anemia or susceptibility to infection,” the experts explain. The trigger is the degeneration of a group of hematopoietic ("myeloid") cells. These divide unchecked and almost exclusively produce so-called blast cells, according to the JLU. The blast cells not only disrupt normal blood formation in the bone marrow, but also damage various organs directly.

Special protein with a key role
According to the scientists, the "cancer protein" AML1-ETO plays a key role in a special type of AML, since it changes the gene expression of cancer cells. In their current study, the researchers were able to demonstrate that this protein also fulfills another, previously unknown function. AML1-ETO also influences the expression of genes that are normally regulated by the so-called Notch protein, reports the JLU. The Notch protein plays an important role in cell division as well as in cell differentiation.

Crucial influence on cancer development
In their experiments, the scientists discovered that they “discovered a new mechanism of action of the aggressive variant of the AML1-ETO cancer protein (AE9a).” They found that the protein - just like the Notch protein itself - activates the expression of Notch target genes. With a changed form of the cancer protein that no longer caused deregulation of the Notch target genes, however, no longer caused cancer. "Therefore, this newly discovered mechanism of action appears to be an essential step in the development of leukemia," emphasizes Professor Borggrefe.

Hope for improved therapies
The scientists were also able to demonstrate that "the aggressive variant of the AML1-ETO cancer protein can also be found in AML patients and can be identified by a characteristic gene expression profile," reports the JLU. According to the scientists, these research results could contribute to an improvement in blood cancer therapy in the future. (fp)

Author and source information

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