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Researchers find Achilles' heel protein in leukaemia

Published on 26/04/19 at 09:33am

An international team of researchers have identified an “Achilles’ heel” protein that could lead to the development of novel treatments for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

The protein, YTHDF2, is needed in order to trigger and sustain the fatal form of blood cancer. However YTHDF2 is not needed for healthy cells to function.

As such YTHDF2 could be a promising target for drug treatments of leukaemia.

The research, led by scientists at the Queen Mary University of London and the University of Edinburgh was carried out in collaboration with the University of Manchester, Harvard Medical School and the Université de Tours.

In testing blood samples from patients with leukaemia, the scientists found that YTHDF2 is abundant in cancer cells.

Experiments in mice later showed that the protein was needed in order to intiate and maintain the disease.

Further tests allowed scientists to determine the biological pathway through which interfering the function of YTHDF2 could selectively kill blood cancer cells.

Professor Kamil Kranc, of Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, who jointly led the study, said: “Our work sets the stage for therapeutic targeting of cancer stem cells in leukaemia while enhancing the regenerative capacity of normal blood stem cells. We hope this will establish a new paradigm in cancer treatment.”

Professor Dónal O'Carroll, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who co-led the research, said: “The study shows the promise of a novel class of drugs as the basis for cancer and regenerative medicine treatments.”  

Louis Goss

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