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A major step forward in the battle against leukemia and lymphoma

An international research effort in which the University of Essen was a participant has produced results which lay the foundation for a totally new approach to the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma. These results have now been published in the prestigious journal Cancer Cell*.
The first author of the article describing the breakthrough is Dr. Cyrus Khandanpour from the Department of Hematology of the West German Cancer Center at Essen University Hospital. Khandanpour has been involved in this effort since working as a postdoc on the research team headed by Prof. Tarik Möröy, who was previously a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen and is now head of the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal in Canada.

The various types of leukemia and lymphoma account for only three to five percent of all malignancies. However, in up to 80 percent of the affected patients, even intensive treatment fails to produce a cure. “We went straight to the heart of the matter and examined exactly how the various genes participating in the origin and development of leukemia interact. I am now convinced that these results will also serve as starting points for new treatment strategies,” stated Khandanpour. One of the aspects his research group is looking at especially closely is the role played by the transcription factor Gfi1.

This has in fact proved to be the decisive key. Working together with various international research groups in Canada and the U.S. (Prof. Leighton. L. Grimes and Dr. James Phelan, Cincinnati). Khandanpour and Moroy examined the impact of Gfi1 on the origin and development of leukemia and lymphoma. In the absence of Gf1 a different course, remission or complete healing even without chemotherapy is observed in patients with leukemia. This has been clearly demonstrated in experiments with mice models. The results of the first studies carried out with human leukemia cells have confirmed that Gfi1 plays an important role there as well. When Gfi1 is lost, human leukemia also disappears.

These promising results will now be explored further in another study at the University Clinic of Essen, exploring the possibility of targeting Gfi1 to cure human leukemia. The work will be carried out at various locations. The work was supported among others by the Max Eder Program of the Deutsche Krebshilfe (German Cancer Aid) the IFORES program at Essen University Hospital and the Cole foundation.

* Cyrus Khandanpour, James D. Phelan, Lothar Vassen, Judith Schütte, Riyan Chen1, Shane R. Horman, Marie-Claude Gaudreau, Joseph Krongold, Jinfang Zhu, William E. Paul, Ulrich Dührsen, Bertie Göttgens, H. Leighton Grimes, and Tarik Möröy.
Growth factor independent-1antagonizes a p53-induced DNA damage response pathway in lymphoblastic leukemia Cancer Cell, in press

For further information, contact:
• Prof. Dr. med. Ulrich Dührsen, Tel: +49 (0) 201/723-2417, (Head of department of hematology at University Clinic Essen)
• Dr. med. Cyrus Khandanpour, Tel. +49 (0) 201/723-85185, +49 (0) 151-44543324,,

• Prof: Dr. rer. nat. Tarik Möröy, Tel 0015149875764, (corresponding senior author of the study, president of the IRCM)

Beate Kostka | idw
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