A team of researchers has developed a mathematical model based on the biology of blood cell formation to describe how certain cancer cells respond to a molecularly targeted therapy, according to a Letter in the 30 June 2005 issue of Nature (Vol. 435, No. 7046, pp. 1267-1270).
Chronic myeloid leukaemia is caused by a genetic mutation that produces an abnormal protein that tells the body to continuously produce a type of white blood cell. Imatinib is a specific inhibitor that interferes with the activity of this protein and in many patients this drug results in the rapid decline of cancer cells. However, imatinib does not eliminate disease and a greater understanding of how the drug exerts its effect is needed.
To that end, Franziska Michor and colleagues used a mathematical approach to show that imatinib successfully reduces the number of leukaemic cells, but does not appear to eliminate leukaemic stem cells in vivo. The work also demonstrates that mutations in the target of imatinib probably occur in leukaemic stem cells, which has implications for future drug development and strategies to combat resistance.
Franziska Michor (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Gary Gilliland (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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