Researchers at Western University have identified genes that may be important for preventing childhood leukemia.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the blood that occurs primarily in young children. It’s frequently associated with mutations or chromosomal abnormalities that arise during embryonic or fetal development.
Research led by Rodney DeKoter, BSc'90, PhD'96, identified two key genes that appear essential in the prevention of B cell ALL, the most common form of ALL in children. The study is published online in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology.
In the study, mice were generated with mutations in two genes called PU.1 and Spi-B. Mutation of either of these individually had little effect. Unexpectedly, mutation of both genes resulted in 100 per cent of the mice developing B cell ALL. Eighty percent of ALL cases in children are of the B cell type.
“You can think of PU.1 and Spi-B proteins as brakes on a car. If the main brake (PU.1) fails, you still have the emergency brake (Spi-B). However, if both sets of brakes fail, the car speeds out of control,” explains DeKoter, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “And uncontrolled cell division is an important cause of leukemia.”
PU.1 is an essential regulator in the development of the immune system, and mutations in this gene have been previously associated with human ALL. DeKoter hopes these studies will ultimately lead to improved, less toxic, therapies for childhood leukemia. Currently, about 80 per cent of ALL patients go into complete remission when treated with aggressive chemotherapy.
This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
DeKoter is also affiliated with the Centre for Human Immunology at Western and the Children’s Health Research Institute. The lead author on the paper is Kristen Sokalski, a 2011 BMSc graduate with an honours specialization in Biochemistry of Infection & Immunity.
Stephen Li and Marek Gruca - both MSc students supervised by DeKoter - Ian Welch and Heather Cadieux-Pitre also worked on the project.
Read the complete story: Western News
Through Western’s ambitious fundraising campaign, Be Extraordinary, we are raising the bar to enrich The Western Experience.
We are preparing students to become the next generation of global leaders. We are also inspiring innovative learning and igniting world-class discovery to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
We invite alumni and friends to participate in our campaign, and help double the number of alumni who contribute to making Western extraordinary.
Be part of something that's already a part of you.
Logging into the Alumni Western web site at www.alumni.westernu.ca allows you to:
What about my privacy?
Need help with your User Name or Password?
Please use the Trouble Signing In? link to recover your User Name and/or Password.
HINT: User Names are often the email address at which you receive emails from Western.
If further help is required, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are usually able to respond the same day during the week. Inquiries received during a weekend or on a holiday are addressed the first day back at work.
You can now log into the Western Alumni website using your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter account to access exclusive content including the career management portal and the alumni directory.
In order to log in via your social media account, your Western Alumni website email address must match the email address used to log into your social media profile.
For example: if the email you use to access the Western Alumni website is email@example.com then your social media account's primary email must also be firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you experience any issues with logging into the Western Alumni website with your social media account, please email email@example.com and please provide your first name, last name, and postal code and we can help you through the login process.