Leukemia breakthrough provides a new therapeutic strategy; The Hormel Institute research published in top scientific journal

Published 9:14 am Sunday, October 22, 2017

The results of a study led by Dr. Shujun Liu, head of the Cancer Epigenetics and Experimental Therapeutics section at The Hormel Institute in Austin, were published in the medical journal, “Leukemia,” this week.

Dr. Liu’s study shows that fatty acid-binding protein 4 (FABP4) and DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) work together in a loop that is critical for regulating the aggressiveness of leukemia cells.

Pharmaceutical drugs can disrupt this loop and impair the growth of leukemia by resetting the aberrant epigenetics in leukemia cells. Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off.

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The article was a collaboration with other researchers from University of Louisville and Mayo Clinic, including Drs. Fei Yan, Na Shen, Jiuxia Pang, Na Zhao, Youwen Zhang, Ann M Bode, Aref Al-Kali, Mark R Litzow and Bing Li.

“This research is a breakthrough because the findings discover a novel druggable target and identify an attractive class of therapeutic agents for leukemia intervention,” said Dr. Shujun Liu, adding it offers high potential for clinical use for acute myeloid leukemia patients and it also paves the way for a new target to develop next-generation epigenetic therapies for leukemia, and potentially, other types of human cancers.

In addition to leukemia treatment, Dr. Liu further explained with over 2 billion obese or overweight people worldwide, his team’s discovery may lead to a promising treatment option for this huge population with or without cancers.

Approximately every 3 minutes one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer. An estimated combined total of 172,910 people in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2017, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases this year.

Leukemia remains a lethal disease for most patients. Because the molecular causes of leukemia are not fully known, effective therapeutic interventions are lacking. In this study, Dr. Liu and his team dissected the molecular causes that are responsible for leukemia development and disease progression and looked for the mechanism-based therapeutic options to cure this lethal blood cancer.