Leukemia Research Foundation News

New, Effective Therapy for Childhood Leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in children under 14. T-ALL, a subtype of ALL, has a significantly poorer prognosis than other subtypes, especially after a relapse. A group of researchers have discovered a new, more effective therapy for T-ALL that includes a combination of drugs.

Therapies for children with T-ALL generally include a single drug. However, the efficacy of a single drug diminishes quickly and does not work well against relapsed disease. The researchers set out to find drug combinations that enhance one another and have a synergistic effect. They discovered that dasatninib, combined with temsirolimus, was more effective in eradicating leukemia cells than using a single drug.

“During this study, we developed a new drug screening method to rapidly assess drug responses in zebrafish. Using this screening method, an effective drug combination was found, which was later confirmed by several cell line models, patient samples, and human leukemia cells grown in mice,” says PhD Saara Laukkanen, the first author of the study.

“This is a promising new treatment option for T-ALL. The next step is to take the discovery into clinical practice for patients with relapsed or refractory disease via early phase clinical trials.”

The study was published in Blood, the leading scientific journal in the field of hematology. Co-lead authors include Saara Laukkanen, PhD, and Olli Lohi, MD, PhD, from Tampere University in Finland, and David Langenau, PhD, and Alexandra Veloso, PhD, from Massachusetts General Research Institute. The Leukemia Research Foundation supported Dr. Langenau’s research in 2010.


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