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St. Jude researchers have discovered that the gene TEL2 can contribute to gross overproduction of certain white blood cells called myeloid cells, causing a disorder called myeloproliferative disease. The gene also contributes to the development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer in which white blood cells called T lymphocytes reproduce rapidly and excessively.
The scientists already knew that increased TEL2 expression occurs in about 30 percent of children with ALL. In the current study, investigators showed that when TEL2 was over-expressed in bone marrow cells, those cells became cancerous after about six months. But if the cells were also exposed to a cancer causing chemical called ENU, the cancer appeared several months earlier. This suggests that a TEL2 mutation itself does not cause leukemia, but makes the bone marrow cell sensitive to a second mutation.
“Our work shows that TEL2 is an oncogene,” said Gerard Grosveld, chair of Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology. “But TEL2 depends on a second mutation occurring in the cell before it can trigger cancer—in this case, leukemia.” An oncogene is a gene that can transform a normal cell into a cancerous cell.
A report on this work appears in the February 1 issue of the journal Blood.
Other authors of the report include Jacqueline Bonten and Cintia Carella of Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology; Jerold Rehg, DVM, Pathology; and Geoffrey Neale, PhD, Hartwell Center.
Last update: March 2006