These Genes are Made for Returning

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia tends to recur in patients with ATF5 gene who receive Elspar

(RxWiki News) Genes are continuing to be the superheroes of treatment breakthroughs. A new study has discovered a gene linked to leukemia coming back in younger patients.

Scientists at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center have discovered that younger patients with a certain form of the ATF5 gene are more susceptible to leukemia recurring when using the chemo drug Elspar (E. coli asparaginase ) in combination with other types of chemotherapy. By isolating ATF5, oncologists can determine who is at an increased risk for relapse and design more effective treatments. 

"Consult your oncologist about possible genetic risks before undergoing chemotherapy."

Elspar is used in combination with other drugs during chemotherapy. It is used to combat Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which most often appears in children between the ages of two and five.

Researchers first observed an increase in recurrences in patients with a particular version of the ATF5 gene who had received Elspar. They discovered that when combined with a specific ATF5, Elspar didn't block cancer cell growth mechanisms. Instead, the drug caused cancer cells to develop their own means of growing, such that they returned after being treated.

According to the study's author, Dr. Maja Krajinovic of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center, this discovery opens new doors for treatment. Oncologists can look for this particular type of ATF5 gene in ALL patients and determine if Elspar is an appropriate therapy.

Thanks to combined chemotherapy, survival rates of ALL have climbed to 80 percent. By highlighting ATF5's role in recurrences of the disease, the survival rate could climb even higher.

This study was published in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology. 

Review Date: 
November 7, 2011