Evidence builds for new cancer drug target
the c-myb gene, which leukaemia cells depend on for proliferation,
is the formation of white blood cells. The discovery is sure to
position the gene as a potential cancer drug target designed to
halt its expression.
The discovery gains more significance as The American Cancer Society (ACS) predicts that approximately 30,200 new leukemia cases - 27,900 adults and 2,300 children - will be diagnosed in the United States every year. Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is the most frequently reported form of leukemia in adults, and approximately 10,000 new cases are anticipated in 2004.
The c-myb gene has been the focus of a number of studies in the past mainly due to the role it is known to play in cancer. Many different proteins interact with c-myb and these interactions are considered to be essential for the activity of c-myb. The protein also binds to DNA and induces the expression of many different genes, which play a critical role in leukaemic cell proliferation.
The study, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is providing detailed genetic explanations of how and why c-myb is essential for the proliferation of white blood cells by demonstrating that when it's removed, cell proliferation is impaired and the risk of developing cancer is reduced.
Dr Prem Reddy, lead author of the study told DrugResearcher.com: "Research work carried out in the last 10 years has shown that c-myb is essential for the proliferation of most leukaemias."
"This study is another step in the process of validating the c-myb gene as a potential target for new cancer drugs."
The team's ultimate goal is to develop a drug that blocks the harmful activity of this gene, blocking the proliferation of tumour cells that depend on the activity of this protein.
"At the moment we are developing additional animal models to establish the role of this gene in breast cancer, which will also be useful in testing the small molecule inhibitors for cancer therapy," Reddy commented.
"Developing a small molecule inhibitor of Myb would be a major breakthrough."
The team are currently are working with Onconova Therapeutics to develop this class of inhibitors and develop them to market.
About 41 per cent of the patients will have chronic leukemia - an estimated 7,800 chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cases and 4,500 chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) cases. In addition, hairy cell leukemia (HCL), a slow-growing lymphocytic cancer, will account for about 604 cases (2 per cent of all leukaemias). It is estimated that approximately 22,000 American adults and children will die of leukemia each year.
Chronic leukemia, like many other cancers, is a "disease of old age" The average age of individuals with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is roughly 70 years, and the average age of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients is 40 to 50 years. By contrast, acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is largely a pediatric disease, usually appearing in children who are under 10 years of age.