Nudging Two Suppressed Genes May Help Block Leukemia Relapse

Thanks to generous donations, researchers at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center are investigating a novel way to better eradicate leukemia cells and improve the duration of remission.

Despite considerable advances in our knowledge of leukemia, the treatment of this cancer remains challenging. Standard approaches typically offer initial promise as most patients do achieve remission. However, the rate of relapse is high and no new chemotherapy agents have made a significant impact. Thanks to generous donations, researchers at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center are investigating a novel way to better eradicate leukemia cells and improve the duration of remission.

Michael Nemeth, PhD, Assistant Member in the Department of Medicine, leads a team that is exploring a certain cellular pathway, called the WNT/beta catenin pathway. This pathway is associated with the development, proliferation and survival of cancer cells. In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), two important genes that suppress this pathway seem to be silenced, a possible critical factor in AML development and its relapse. Dr. Nemeth’s team plans to determine whether factors that silence these genes are responsible for increased activity along the pathway. They will also test if replacement therapy with these genes can restore activity in the pathway to normal levels and ultimately control leukemia cell growth.

“Increased activity along this pathway is linked with greater probability of cancer relapse,” explains Dr. Nemeth. “Successfully targeting it could have significant impact on extending a patient’s cancer-free period.”

Pictured: Dr. Nemeth with pre-doctoral trainee Michelle Golding, who assisted in the research program.