Discovery Could Eradicate A Form Of Childhood Leukemia

Researchers at Western University have identified a gene that has the potential to wipe out cancer cells in a common form of childhood leukemia.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a blood cancer that’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in children. Dr. Rodney DeKoter, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and a scientist with the Children’s Health Research Institute, and his team were investigating gene changes responsible for the onset of ALL when they discovered a way to actually kill the cancer cells.

The researchers found that reducing the expression of the Bruton Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) gene plays a key role in ALL.  Conversely, when they forced the expression of BTK, the cancer cells died.

BTK is a famous gene because of its documented association to a childhood immunodeficiency called X-linked agammaglobulinemia. It’s because of this association the researchers considered the link between BTK and leukemia prevention.

The study is published in the Journal of Immunology.