Northwestern Medicine shines light on potential new leukemia treatment

10:00 18 July in Health, Medicine

Leukemia treatment often proves to be more complicated in comparison to treatment for other types of cancer. For leukemia patients, researchers at Northwestern Medicine believe multiple overactive protein complexes may be to blame. Thus, by moving away from the idea that one particular protein complex, mTORC, is to blame, they decided to explore this further to determine if other factors were at play.

They knew that the overactive protein complex, mTORC, left many patients and doctors frustrated because the treatment seems to be inefficient in nearly 60 percent of patients. mTORC is comprised of a central kinase, referred to as mammalian. That central kinase is used to bind to and regulate various smaller proteins. However, mTORC was not as successful as initially thought. This is because mTORC failed to control the speed of protein synthesis, which contributes to the growth of cancer. This failure of protein regulation affects 60 percent of patients trying to beat acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

This led Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD, senior author of the study at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Center of Northwestern Medicine and his team to dive back into research to find a potential missing overactive protein complex using a proteomic approach. They found cTORC, which turned out to be a similar protein complex with CDK9 at its center.

After finding cTORC, Platania’s team tested its effectiveness on mice. They found that cTORC did, in fact, play a role in cancer growth. Inhibiting cTORC in trials with mice proved to be successful in reducing the growth of cancer. Platania claimed the trial showed that cTORC alone could be potentially useful on humans, but he believes using a combination of cTORC and mTORC therapy would be most effective in treatment in humans.

The findings of this second protein complex are important expresses Platania. Cancer tends to always find an alternative entrance. Capitalizing on both cTORC and mTORC ensures hitting cancer where it hurts states Platania. Using this strategy of attacking it in a multitude of ways will hopefully encourage other research teams to re-examine similar situations.

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