The reason behind why a form of leukemia progresses from its more-treatable chronic phase to a life-threatening phase called blast crisis has been discovered by scientists.
They found that chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) progresses when immature white blood cells lose a molecule called miR-328.
Loss of the molecule traps the cells in a rapidly growing, immature state. The cells soon fill the bone marrow and spill into the bloodstream, a tell-tale sign that the disease has advanced to the blast crisis stage.
According to the researchers, the study should provide a better understanding of the blast-crisis stage of CML, and it suggests a possible new treatment strategy for the disease.
"These findings indicate that the loss of miR-328 is probably essential for progression from the chronic phase of the disease to the blast crisis stage," said principal investigator Danilo Perrotti, associate professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and a member of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James).
"Our findings also suggest that maintaining the level of this microRNA might represent a new therapeutic strategy for CML blast crisis patients who do not benefit from targeted agents such as imatinib (Gleevec) and dasatinib (Sprycel)," Perrotti added.
The study has been published in the March 5th issue of the journal Cell.