Leukemia Research Foundation News

Researchers discover important drug target for preventing blood cancer

From News Medical/Original story from Vanderbilt University Medical Center

An international coalition of biomedical researchers has found a new way to measure the growth rate of precancerous clones of blood stem cells that one day could help doctors lower their patients’ risk of blood cancer.

The technique, called PACER, led to the identification of a gene that, when activated, drives clonal expansion. The findings, published April 12 in the journal Nature, suggest that drugs targeting this gene, may be able to suppress clonal growth and associated cancers.

“We think that is a new important drug target for preventing blood cancer,” said Bick, the study’s co-corresponding author with Stanford University’s Siddhartha Jaiswal, MD, PhD.

More than 10% of older adults develop somatic (non-inherited) mutations in blood stem cells that can trigger explosive, clonal expansions of abnormal cells, increasing the risk for blood cancer and cardiovascular disease.

With age, dividing cells in the body acquire mutations. Most of these mutations are innocuous “passenger” mutations. But sometimes, a mutation occurs that drives the development of a clone and ultimately causes cancer.

“You can think of passenger mutations like rings on a tree. The more rings a tree has, the older it is. If we know how old the clone is (how long ago it was born) and how big it is (what percentage of blood it takes up), we can estimate the growth rate,” said Bick.

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