A new study shows that a recently-developed drug, already used safely in adult leukaemia clinical trials, holds great promise for some children with an aggressive form of cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
ALL is the most common childhood cancer, but around 15% will have an aggressive subtype of ALL (known as T-ALL) that is generally less responsive to therapy and more likely to relapse. However, researchers have now shown that a drug known as PR-104 is effective against laboratory models of aggressive T-ALL. Their findings are published in the journal Blood.
PR-104 is one of the most exciting drugs tested by the researchers. They were so encouraged by their first results that they undertook additional studies which showed the drug to be preferentially active against T-ALL. PR-104 is much less effective against the more common B cell leukaemias.
At first baffled by why T-ALL responded to PR-104, the researchers realised that only the T cell subtype expressed high levels of AKR1C3, an enzyme that activates PR-104. The research team is in the process of examining the molecular biology behind AKR1C3, and trying to understand why T-ALL cells express very high levels of the enzyme.
If the researchers understand what activates this enzyme in T cells, they might also find a way of activating it in B cells, making the B cell disease sensitive to the drug as well. In the mean time, the researchers are looking towards conducting a clinical trial to treat childhood T-ALL with PR-104.
Based on material originally posted by Children's Cancer Institute Australia.