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New genes of acute lymphocytic leukemia discovered

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New genes of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Researchers from VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) made new discoveries about acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL), one of the most common forms of leukemia in children. Although chemotherapy induces remission in approximately 75% of children, this treatment has many side effects.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia refers to uncontrolled proliferation of lymphoblasts in the blood. These immature white blood cells invade not only the bone marrow but also other organs such as the spleen, liver, etc.. Most often this form of leukemia occurs in children between 2 and 5 years, but there is a high rate of cure with current treatments. Now researchers at VIB, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven in collaboration with international research team, have made new discoveries about genetic mutations that underlie T-ALL, a form of ALL. They found that an important role in this disease is represented by ribosome, a cellular organelle responsible for protein production, and that there are differences in pediatric T-ALL and adult T-ALL. These findings can be the starting point for new treatments.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Jan Cools from VIB / KU Leuven stressed that there are genetic differences between this form of leukemia in adults versus children and this is the explanation for that adults do not respond to treatment. If children have a cure rate of 75%,  in adults, instead, the cure rate is 50%. For treatment to be successful, it must first be discovered what causes leukemia.

It seems that T-ALL is triggered by genetic errors that occur simultaneously. The researchers found 15 genes whose mutations result in T-ALL, and 7 of them are newly discovered as they have not been so far associated with leukemia. The findings were made after researchers analyzed using next-generation sequencing more than 20,000 genes from 67 T-ALL patients.

What was also discovered was that there are many differences between T-ALL in adults T-ALL in children. It seems that adults have more mutations than children. It was also found that, in  adults, there are mutations in other genes than those found in children. This is why adults do not respond to treatment as children respond.

The researchers also discovered for the first time that defects in ribosome can lead to activation of leukemia. It seems that the two newly discovered genes, RPL5 and RPL10, form part of ribosomes. Kim De Keersmaecker from VIB / KU Leuven said that all cells need functional ribosomes to survive  and that these mutations are the weak point in leukemia. Also they could be the target for future therapies.