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UCSD Researchers Block Pathway To Cancer Cell Replication

Inhibiting a pathway used by cells that cause pediatric leukemia might lead to treatments for the disease and other forms of cancer, according to results of a study released today by the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

The discovery could lower the risk of relapse for patients whose leukemia is in remission, according to the researchers. Traditional chemotherapy does not kill leukemia-initiating cells.

The research team discovered that cells that cause pediatric T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia activate a mutated pathway called "NOTCH1'' when replicating, but if an antibody is applied to the pathway, the cells do not survive.

"We were able to substantially reduce the potential of these cancer stem cells to self-renew,'' said Dr. Catriona Jamieson. "So we're not just getting rid of cancerous cells -- we're getting to the root of their resistance to treatment -- leukemic stem cells that lie dormant.''

The researchers, with assistance from Pfizer Global Research and Development in La Jolla Laboratories and the Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, used mice transplanted with human leukemia cells.

The findings could lead to new treatment options for other forms of cancer that use the NOTCH1 pathway, the researchers said.

The study was supported by the Ratner Family Foundation, Leichtag Family Foundation, Moores Cancer Center donor funds, and grants from the National Institute of Health, the William Lawrence Foundation, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the American Society of Hematology-Amos Medical Faculty Development program.

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