New Promising Information to Treat, Cure Childhood Leukemias

First Posted: Feb 11, 2014 01:57 PM EST

Researchers from the UT Health Center may have pinpointed a protein that could potentially play a key role in the development of pediatric AML-promising new information to treat and cure possible childhood leukemias.

Background information from the study notes that AML begins when maturing cells start to grow into different kinds of blood cells. For this, the cancerous cells grow and proliferate in an abnormal way as they fail to develop into normally functioning white blood cells. The high levels of a protein known as WTAP can contribute to abnormal cell behavior, which could harm the effectiveness of treatments for this type of leukemia.

For Sanja Bansal, Ph.D., and researchers at Greehey Children's Cancer Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, they worked to "knock down" leukemia cells via a technique known as WTAP expression in AML cells. The results yielded successful findings, according to background information from the study.

"Knocking down this protein, WTAP, greatly suppressed proliferation and induced differentiation," said Hima Bansal, Ph.D., senior research associate at the Health Science Center and lead author of the paper, via a press release. "It took care of both problems."

However, to further understand how WTAP levels grow to AML in the first place, researchers turned to another protein known as Hsp90 or "molecular chaperone" that's known to stabilize more than 200 other proteins such as Hsp90 "clients."

"When we suppressed Hsp90, we reduced WTAP," Dr. Bansal said, via the release. "So we have discovered two things: WTAP's role in AML and the mechanism underlying its overexpression."

Researchers said that they believe this discovery could open the door to new and more effective therapies for children and adults with newly diagnosed AML or for patients who had unsuccessful instances with current treatments.

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More information regarding the findings can be seen via the Leukemia in Nature. 

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