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Leukemia takes it up a NOTCH

The Notch pathway has been linked to aggressive growth in a range of tumor types but had not previously been considered a prime target for myeloid leukemia therapies. Separate American teams now have identified two targets in the pathway that promote highly aggressive hematopoietic stem cell growth and possibly progression of late-stage chronic myeloid leukemia into acute myeloid leukemia. The work opens new therapeutic areas to the companies targeting the pathway for solid tumors.

Cancer stem cells are self-renewing, undifferentiated cells that are thought to fuel tumor growth. Ordinarily, stem cells divide to produce a copy of the original cell plus a daughter cell with some degree of differentiation, but cancer stem cells can divide without undergoing differentiation.

"A normal stem cell needs to decide whether to remain a stem cell or to differentiate," said Michael Kharas, instructor of hematological oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "This decision point could be mutated in cancers."

Kharas is the lead author of a study published in Nature

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