Leukemia in children is the most common cancer in kids, according to the American Cancer Society. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer that affects the production of blood in a child’s bone marrow. The blood produced contains too many immature white blood cells.
A recent study in the journal Nature Immunology outlines the discovery of a protein signature that helps doctors predict appearance of leukemia in children. The hope is that this discovery will lead to earlier leukemia detection and better treatment.
The study authors found that the activation of a protein known as STAT5 causes the protein imbalance that leads to the development of ALL. They say the development of a drug to prevent the initial activation of STAT5 could be used to bring the proteins back in balance and treat a child’s leukemia.
Researchers employed a methodology that combined unique mouse models and patient samples combined with high-throughput DNA sequencing, epigenetic and proteomic analysis. Their results showed that a patient with a high ratio of imbalanced proteins had a far worse prognosis.
What Are the Practical Applications?
The study authors wrote that their study of STAT5 and the other proteins revealed a way for doctors to predict how a patient will respond to cancer therapy. They also point out understanding the role of STAT5 and the balance of these proteins will improve a doctor’s ability to classify a patient’s risk for developing leukemia or having a relapse.
This knowledge gives doctors an important insight when developing a treatment plan for a child with ALL. It also suggests that drugs developed to prevent the STAT5 protein from activating will provide a more effective way of treating leukemia.