February 11, 2009

Genome-wide leukemia analysis completed

U.S. medical researchers say they have completed the first genome-wide expression analysis involving leukemia.

University of Rochester and Stanford University scientists compared highly enriched normal blood stem cells and leukemic stem cells, identifying several new pathways having a key role in cancer development.

The researchers said some scientists believe the best way to eradicate cancer is to find therapies that target cancer's stem cells, but most cancer treatments today fail to attack cancer at its root and that is why the disease can recur despite aggressive therapy.

But before cancer stem cell therapies can be developed, scientists must improve their understanding of the similarities and differences between biological networks active in leukemic stem cells and their normal cell counterparts, the scientists said.

The new analysis showed modern microarray technology can reveal a swath of stem-cell pathways, including some not previously implicated in leukemia and other cancers. In fact, the researchers said their analysis identified 3,005 differentially expressed genes, including a ribosome and T-cell receptor signaling pathway.

The study that included Assistant Professor Michael Becker of the University of Rochester Medical Center and Dr. Irving Weissman, director of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University, appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.