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An Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

Memphis, Tennessee, November 16, 2017

John Schuetz, PhD, and Aaron Pitre, PhD

From left: John Schuetz, PhD, and Aaron Pitre, PhD

Scientists have discovered how a link between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy. Disrupting that link could render the cells vulnerable to treatment.

John Schuetz, PhD, of St. Jude Pharmaceutical Sciences, and his colleagues knew a protein called ABCC4 is elevated in aggressive cases of AML. The team searched for other proteins that might interact with ABCC4 and enable its function. By screening hundreds of proteins, they found one called MPP1, which was greatly increased in AML.

The findings could help clinicians identify patients with high levels of ABCC4 and MPP1. Such patients might benefit from drugs that disrupt those proteins.

The findings could also lead to drugs to enhance chemotherapy in patients with colon and breast cancers and the brain tumor medulloblastoma.

A report on this research appeared in the journal Nature Communications.

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