Scientist Explores Gene to Increase Survival Rate of Patients with High-Risk Leukemia
Research could lead to targeted therapies



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Research Update as of February 20, 2014

With an overall survival rate of about 90%, most leukemia patients receive a standardized treatment that has been proven successful. However, when a patient with leukemia relapses, their chances of survival decrease significantly. Mutations in the Ikaros gene have been previously proven to lead to an increased risk of relapse and treatment failure.

Chris Porter, MD at the University of Colorado, Children's Hospital Denver is a CureSearch Young Investigator is researching the Ikaros gene to determine how cells change when Ikaros is mutated. During his first year of work, Dr. Porter has developed a model to turn on or off a mutated Ikaros gene. He has used this model to measure changes in the expression levels of other genes, and in the coming year will look for what genes are necessary for a cell to survive when the Ikaros gene is impaired.



Chris Porter, MD from the University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital of Denver splits his time seeing pediatric oncology patients and researching targeted therapies aimed at improving treatments for leukemia. His lab at the University of Colorado is focused on using functional genomic screening to identify novel therapeutic strategies for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

With an overall survival rate of 80%, most leukemia patients receive a standardized treatment that has been proven successful. However, when a patient with leukemia relapses, their chances of survival decrease significantly. Dr. Porter plans on researching why these cancers do not respond well to traditional chemotherapy, and what therapies can be created to improve survival rates. He believes that to understand this, doctors need to explore the genes responsible for initiating and maintaining the leukemia and then develop therapies targeted to vulnerabilities that these genes create to successfully treat the disease.

Recent studies have shown that patients with ALL have several genetic alterations which are suspected to contribute to the induction, development, and progression of leukemia and/or treatment failure. Dr. Porter and his team are focused on the Ikaros gene, as others have demonstrated that it leads to an increased risk of relapse and treatment failure in patients with high-risk leukemias.

 
  • Chris Porter, MD
  • University of Colorado
  • Children's Hospital of Denver
 

Dr. Porter plans to explore clinically relevant non-oncogene and escape pathway addictions in Ikaros ALL. Oncogenes are ones that cause cancer and are toxic to the cell. Therefore, the cell tries to mutate, or change, to survive. The attempt at surviving is called a non-oncogene addiction. Similarly, although chemotherapy kills most cancer cells, some may survive by changing to become resistant to treatment, referred to as an escape pathway addiction.

Dr. Porter hypothesizes that when the Ikaros gene is mutated, changes occur that allow cell survival, and he intends to determine what these changes are and how these cells resist chemotherapy. Dr. Porter hopes that this will lead to improved treatments for leukemia patients.

Dr. Porter will begin this research in early 2013 and is funded by CureSearch for Children’s Cancer for two years through the Young Investigators Grant. During the course of his grant, Dr. Porter will provide updates on his research, and CureSearch looks forward to sharing those with you.


 

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