The study, published in the prestigious international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the result of a long-standing collaboration between Duke-NUS, the Experimental Therapeutics Centre at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and the Singapore General Hospital that is focused on developing effective therapies in CML.
CML is a blood cancer that has seen tremendous improvement in treatment outcomes following the introduction of tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) drugs that specifically target the BCR-ABL fusion gene, a genetic abnormality that is characteristic of CML. However, when CML progresses to its terminal stage, known as the blast crisis phase, TKI drugs become ineffective and patients with blast crisis CML rapidly succumb to the disease.
"TKI therapy is highly effective in chronic phase CML, and enables most patients to survive many years. In contrast, patients with blast crisis CML usually succumb to their disease within one year, with most patients dying because they develop drug resistance to TKI therapy," said principal investigator Ong Sin Tiong, associate professor and head of the Laboratory of Hematologic Malignancies in the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program at Duke-NUS.
A subset of cells associated with blast crisis CML exhibit characteristics of self-renewing stem cells, suggesting that targeting this particularly malignant and drug-resistant population would be effective in treating blast crisis CML. The team therefore searched for novel targets that will specifically eliminate these cancer stem cells.
Through their efforts, the team identified a protein enzyme, known as the MNK kinase, that was abnormally activated in clinical samples taken from patients with blast crisis CML. Experiments conducted in the lab further unraveled how MNK kinase activation plays a critical role in the progression of CML to the blast crisis phase, and confers stem cell-like behavior on blast crisis cells.
The team tested a panel of drugs that inhibit MNK kinase activity and found that these MNK inhibitors were effective in preventing blast crisis cells from behaving like cancer stem cells in both in vitro laboratory tests and animal studies.
"Our studies identify the MNK kinases as an important therapeutic target in blast crisis CML, and suggest that drug inhibition of MNK kinase will be useful in overcoming TKI resistance, and improving the survival of patients with blast crisis CML," said Ong, who is also a visiting consultant at the National Cancer Center Singapore and Singapore General Hospital.
Importantly, the MNK inhibitor drugs do not appear to be toxic to normal blood stem cells, indicating that drugs targeting MNK kinases may not cause harmful side effects. Ong said he hopes the findings from this study will open new research directions in the treatment of blast crisis CML.
"We are currently collaborating with the Experimental Therapeutics Centre and Singapore General Hospital to develop new drugs to simultaneously target the MNK and the BCR-ABL kinases. The development of dual MNK and BCR-ABL kinase inhibitors to treat patients with blast crisis CML may enhance the survival of patients with this deadly disease," Ong said. He added he ho estimates it will take a few years before these drugs can enter into clinical trials for blast crisis CML.
Dr. Sharon Lim, a research fellow at Duke-NUS, is the first author of the study. Funding for the study was provided by the Duke–National University of Singapore Signature Research Program funded by A*STAR; the Ministry of Health (Singapore); and the National Research Foundation Singapore Clinician Scientist Award, awarded to Ong by the National Medical Research Council.
Juliana Chan | EurekAlert!
Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University
What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences
07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences
07.12.2016 | Materials Sciences