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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Nov 7;103(45):16870-5. Epub 2006 Oct 31.

Targeting multiple kinase pathways in leukemic progenitors and stem cells is essential for improved treatment of Ph+ leukemia in mice.

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  • 1The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA.


It is generally believed that shutting down the kinase activity of BCR-ABL by imatinib will completely inhibit its functions, leading to inactivation of its downstream signaling pathways and cure of the disease. Imatinib is highly effective at treating human Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph(+)) chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in chronic phase but not Ph(+) B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) and CML blast crisis. We find that SRC kinases activated by BCR-ABL remain fully active in imatinib-treated mouse leukemic cells, suggesting that imatinib does not inactivate all BCR-ABL-activated signaling pathways. This SRC pathway is essential for leukemic cells to survive imatinib treatment and for CML transition to lymphoid blast crisis. Inhibition of both SRC and BCR-ABL kinase activities by dasatinib affords complete B-ALL remission. However, curing B-ALL and CML mice requires killing leukemic stem cells insensitive to both imatinib and dasatinib. Besides BCR-ABL and SRC kinases, stem cell pathways must be targeted for curative therapy of Ph(+) leukemia.

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