Basis for new treatment options for a fatal leukemia in children revealed

Detailed molecular analyses allow new insights into the function of tumour cells and options for new treatments

Berlin, 29th July 2015 – Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children. It can occur in various forms, differing not only by specific changes in the genetic material of the leukemia cells but also by their response to therapies. Now, an international team of scientists from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hannover, Heidelberg, Kiel, and Zurich have succeeded in decoding the molecular characteristics of an as yet incurable subtype of leukemia, paving the way for new therapeutic approaches. Their results have been published in the current issue of the journal Nature Genetics (27 July).

Although intensive research over the last decade has significantly improved the survival rates of children suffering from ALL, a subset of patients remains resistant to treatment. One example is the very aggressive and incurable subtype associated with a t(17;19) chromosomal translocation, which occurs due to breakage and aberrant fusion of genetic material in the tumour cells, resulting in the formation of a new oncogenic protein encoded by the genes TCF3 and HLF (TCF3-HLF-positive leukemia cells). Until now, the molecular basis of this phenotype has remained elusive. An international group of clinicians and scientists from different universities and research institutions, with contributions from the Berlin-based company Alacris Theranostics GmbH, has conducted an in-depth analysis of the molecular features of the t(17; 19) ALL subtype.

The consortium team decoded the genome of the leukemic cells using sophisticated bioinformatics methods. The team found genetic aberrations in addition to the known translocation. “We are glad that we could contribute to this important project with genomic data analysis of leukemia cells to unravel some of the molecular changes in this disease”, says Bodo Lange (CEO, Alacris Theranostics).

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