Scientists make breakthrough leukaemia discovery

28 March 2011

Researchers have made a major breakthrough when it comes to understanding the causes of acute myeloid leukaemia.

Published in the journal Nature Genetics, the study shows that certain gene mutations are closely associated with the development of the condition, which affects both red and white blood cells - albeit in very different ways.

Dr George Vassiliou, consultant haematologist from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which conducted the new research programme into acute myeloid leukaemia, said his team had uncovered "critical steps that take place when the cancer develops. Identifying the biological steps in turn means we can look for new drugs to reverse the process".

He told the BBC that while developing drugs that could counter the condition would be a drawn-out process, potentially taking many decades, patients could be treated with better targeted, existing drugs.

Three types of mutation were discovered by the scientists that seem to dramatically increase the likelihood of leukaemia developing.

Recently, researchers from the UK uncovered 13 genes that appear to be closely associated with a patient's risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Posted by Philip Briggs

1 Samani, Nilesh et al. "Large-scale association analysis identifies 13 new susceptibility loci for coronary artery disease". Nature Genetics. Sunday, March 6th 2011.

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