The commonest form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), may be caused by a defect in the RNA splicing process of cells, according to a paper in Nature (Vol. 423, No. 6938, pp. 452-456, dated 22 May 2003). Understanding this process may help researchers clarify the molecular basis of ALL.
Childhood ALL can occur when white blood cells known as B cells become cancerous. Michael Reth of the University of Freiburg and Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology, Germany, and colleagues have found that nearly half of all tumours tested lack a key protein, SLP-65. After DNA is converted to RNA, aberrant sequences are spliced in, causing a non-functional version of the protein to be formed. This process may cause the disease, they speculate.
Mice lacking SLP-65 develop a form of leukaemia that closely resembles childhood ALL. When the protein expression is restored, cancer is prevented.
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