Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Children's Leukaemia Drug Hopes Are Raised

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Children's Leukaemia Drug Hopes Are Raised

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Rae Health Reporter

SCIENTISTS in the North East have made an exciting breakthrough testing a drug that could be used to treat children with life-threatening leukaemia.

Nearly 40% of youngsters with the illness whose disease returns after treatment could benefit from medication designed to treat colon, skin and lung cancer.

Clinical trials are now planned after experts at Newcastle University successfully used selumetinib in mice to treat leukaemia carrying a common set of genetic faults.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer, is caused by out-of-control growth of abnormal white blood cells, leading to a breakdown of the immune system.

The Newcastle team collaborated with scientists in Glasgow and Berlin, screening DNA from 206 children diagnosed with leukaemia between 2001 and 2012 whose disease had relapsed after chemotherapy.

The drug targets specific leukaemia The researchers found that the presence of faulty genes linked to 'ras proteins' in leukaemia cells was a potential cause of early relapse, resistance to chemotherapy and spread of leukaemia to the central nervous system.

cells, damage healthy and side Scientists turned to cancer drug selumetinib, which has been designed for other cancers to inhibit a key effects Dr protein in the ras pathway.

After successful targeted killing of leukaemia cells in cells isolated in the laboratory, the drug was tested on mice with leukaemia that contained the faulty ras pathway.

Selumetinib produced dramatic reductions in the number of cancer cells in the mice, with limited sideeffects.

Dr Julie Irving, who led the research at Newcastle University, said: "It is very exciting to have a set of data that is prompting clinical trials as the next obvious step forward.

faults to the limiting to "The results provided are very powerful in showing that this drug might be used for a large proportion of children with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. "New drugs are desperately needed for children with ALL who relapse after their chemotherapy. …

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