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New Drug Combination Recommended For Leukemia Treatment In Children

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a cancer that affects large number of children. In this form of cancer, the T-ALL type of leukemia, which comes from early T lineage cells has a bad prognosis, when compared to B-lineage ALL. The prognosis for T-ALL, which has relapsed in children is not very good and research is ongoing to find out new cures.

A joint study by Tampere University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology in Finland, the Massachusetts General Research Institute, and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have come up with a new drug combination, which is expected to be effective against T-ALL. The study was published online in Blood.

The discovery is done based on an earlier finding done by the Tampere University research group where the general tyrosine kinase inhibitor dasatinib was found useful in around one-third of the patient samples, which were tested.

While treating ALL, the efficacy of only one drug wears off quickly, so the new study looked into drug combinations, which would have a better effect when combined with dasatinib. The combination worked with temsirolimus, a drug that inhibits a parallel signaling pathway. The two drug combination was more effective in removing ALL cells in zebrafish and human disease than working with only one drug.

Saara Laukkanen, Phd, who is the first author of the study, said, "During this study, we developed a new drug screening method for the rapid assessment of drug responses in zebrafish leukemia samples. In this screen, an effective drug combination was found, which was later confirmed by several cell line models, patient samples and human leukemias grown in mice".

Research Director Olli Lohi, MD, PhD, from Tampere University and Tays Hospital's Cancer Centre, said of the treatment, "This is a promising new treatment option for T-acute leukemia. The next step is to take the discovery into clinical practice for patients with relapsed or refractory disease via early phase clinical trials."

"The development of precision treatments is slow and requires accurate knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that cause and maintain disease. Here we utilized a specific dependency of T-ALL cells on certain signaling routes that the combination of dasatinib and temsirolimus shuts off," he added.

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