Stem Cells for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) Die in Response to Inhibition of Ezh2 Protein; Approach May Provide Additional Help to Gleevec and Gleevec-Like Drugs in Treating This Leukemia

Although targeted drugs like Gleevec have revolutionized the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), patients generally must take them for the rest of their lives and may cease benefiting from them over time. In new research that could suggest a road to cure, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children's Hospital have found that CML stem cells die in response to inhibition of a protein called Ezh2. Drugs that target the protein are currently being tested in clinical trials for other cancers. The findings, reported online on September 14, 2016 in the journal Cancer Discovery, raise the prospect that Ezh2 blockers, in combination with Gleevec and similar drugs, could eradicate the disease in some patients in relatively rapid fashion or could be an effective therapy for those who become resistant to Gleevec-like agents, the authors state.This paper is titled “Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Initiating Cells Require Polycomb Group Protein EZH2.” In a paper published simultaneously by Cancer Discovery, a team of Scottish scientists report similar findings using a different research approach. That article is titled “Epigenetic Reprogramming Sensitizes CML Stem Cells to Combined EZH2 and Tyrosine Kinase Inhibition.” "The vast majority of patients with CML do remarkably well on imatinib [Gleevec] and similar drugs: The disease is well controlled and side effects are tolerable," says Stuart Orkin, M.D., the study's senior author and a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. "In only 10-20 percent of patients, however, are the leukemia cells fully cleared from the body.
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