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Homing in on CML stem cells

Researchers at Lund University have found a cell surface marker called IL-1 receptor accessory protein that could be used to isolate and kill chronic myelogenous leukemia stem cells.1 Cantargia AB, a biotech founded based on the findings, is now developing a mAb to attack CML at its root by killing the stem cells, which respond poorly to standard CML treatments and a6re believed to spawn the leukemic cells that characterize the disease.

The majority of CML cases are characterized by cells carrying the Philadelphia chromosome, which contains the oncogenic BCR-ABL fusion protein. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) like Gleevec imatinib are very effective at putting the disease into remission and prolonging patient survival byinhibiting the BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase. However, CML patients require chronic daily treatment with TKIs, and interruption or discontinuation of therapy almost invariably results in disease relapse.

Novartis AG markets Gleevec to treat multiple cancers, including CML. The company also markets a second-generation TKI, Tasigna nilotinib, for Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) CML. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. markets another second-generation TKI, Sprycel dasatinib, to

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