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Discovery of predictive protein signature births new leukaemia treatment hopes

Published on 12/04/17 at 10:26am

Researchers have discovered a protein signature which has proven to be highly predictive of leukaemia and has given rise to hopes to new, novel treatments for the disease.

The protein STAT5, when activated, spurs competition among other proteins which then leads to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL); past research has shown that forced activation of this protein in mice always resulted in the disease. Thus, scientists theorise that if STAT5’s initial activation can be averted through the use of a drug, the onset of ALL could be addressed more effectively.

Seth Frietze, Assistant Professor in Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences at the University of Vermont, conducted data analysis to initially aid in the discovery, finding that the predictive benefits of the protein signature are tied to the ratio of activated STAT5 to IKAROS in patients.

“The major outcome of this story is that a signature emerged from looking at the level of activated proteins compared to other proteins that's very predictive of how a patient will respond to therapy,” he explained. “That's a novel finding. If we could find drugs to target that activation, that could be an incredibly effective way to treat Leukaemia.”

“Tumour sequencing is currently being used to both risk stratify patients and provide novel therapeutic targets,” he continued. “However, the ways in we are able to use that sequencing information is still limited. This study provides a new way to risk stratify patients, identifying those who are at higher risk or relapse and may therefore need more intense therapy to cure their disease.”

Matt Fellows

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