YOUNG cancer patients across the globe could soon benefit from tumour-specific targeted therapies that leave healthy cells intact, thanks to University of Newcastle (UON) research.
Using “protein sequencing,” Hunter researchers investigated a recurring gene mutation commonly found in cases of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL), an aggressive cancer prevalent in children and adolescents. Their research identified “pathways” that drive leukaemia, which could be targeted precisely with clinically available drugs.
“Our research gets us a step closer to investigating the drivers of all types of cancers, and developing cancer-specific targeted therapeutic strategies to reduce side effects and increase long-term survival,” Dr Matthew Dun, an affiliate of HMRI, said.
Current treatment, such as intensive chemotherapy, could have side effects such as heart, lung, fertility and development problems, he said.
But tumor-specific therapies could give children their best chance to develop into adulthood without damaging other cells or incurring secondary cancers.
“We specifically looked at a recurring gene mutation in T-cells that drives the development of ALL,” Dr Dun said.
“This mutation causes the developing blood stem cells to stop maturing. Our capacity to perform deep sequencing allows us to dissect and identify proteins that drive leukaemia, enabling us to determine how the cancer cells are controlled by the mutated gene (JAK3).”
Dr Dun collaborated with Belgium’s University of Leuven and the Leuven Cancer Centre on the study, which has been published in the Leukemia journal.