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Targeting signaling pathways in acute lymphoblastic leukemia: new insights

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christine Harrison FRCPath FMedSci


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The genetics of acute lymphoblastic leukemia are becoming well understood and the incidence of individual chromosomal abnormalities varies considerably with age. Cytogenetics provide reliable risk stratification for treatment: high hyperdiploidy and ETV6-RUNX1 are good risk, whereas BCR-ABL1, MLL rearrangements, and hypodiploidy are poor risk. Nevertheless, some patients within the good- and intermediate-risk groups will unpredictably relapse. With advancing technologies in array-based approaches (single nucleotide polymorphism arrays) and next-generation sequencing to study the genome, increasing numbers of new genetic changes are being discovered. These include deletions of B-cell differentiation and cell cycle control genes, as well as mutations of genes in key signaling pathways. Their associations and interactions with established cytogenetic subgroups and with each other are becoming elucidated. Whether they have a link to outcome is the most important factor for refinement of risk factors in relation to clinical trials. For several newly identified abnormalities, including intrachromosomal amplification of chromosome 21 (iAMP21), that are associated with a poor prognosis with standard therapy, appropriately modified treatment has significantly improved outcome. After the successful use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in the treatment of BCR-ABL1-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, patients with alternative ABL1 translocations and rearrangements involving PDGFRB may benefit from treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Other aberrations, for example, CRLF2 overexpression and JAK2 mutations, are also providing potential novel therapeutic targets with the prospect of reduced toxicity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Harrison CJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Hematology

Year: 2013

Volume: 2013

Issue: 1

Pages: 118-125

Print publication date: 06/12/2013

ISSN (print): 1520-4391

ISSN (electronic): 1520-4383

Publisher: American Society of Hematology


DOI: 10.1182/asheducation-2013.1.118


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