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Home Industry News Enzyme hope for young leukaemia sufferers

Enzyme hope for young leukaemia sufferers

9th June 2009

Children being unsuccessfully treated for leukaemia could possess an enzyme that prevents therapy from working, new research has suggested.

Scientists from Cancer Research UK and Leukaemia Research claim to have identified an enzyme responsible for breaking down and inactivating a key childhood leukaemia drug.

The enzyme AEP, which is not found in healthy white blood cells, breaks down Asnase, a form of a drug called Asparaginase used to treat all children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in the UK.

Researchers believe that the production of AEP and the resistance to the drug is the result of a genetic fault in some leukaemia cells.

Scientists think that its presence could determine whether patients respond to Asnase treatment and whether they have an allergic reaction to it.

If these results are confirmed in patients, a test could be developed to help doctors predict whether children with ALL will benefit from Asnase before treatment starts.

Professor Vaskar Saha, Cancer Research UK’s paediatric oncologist, commented: “Although our results are at an early stage, our study is an important development in understanding the science behind why some patients don’t respond to leukaemia drugs.

“If our findings in leukaemia cells are confirmed in patients, we could be able to test if this drug is the best option before treatment starts.”

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