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Cell Cycle. 2009 Nov 1;8(21):3488-92. Epub 2009 Nov 19.

The Alox5 gene is a novel therapeutic target in cancer stem cells of chronic myeloid leukemia.

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  • 1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA.


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are believed to be the initiating cells for many types of blood cancer and some solid tumors, and curative therapies of these cancers require eradicating CSCs. Specific targeting of CSCs but not normal stem cell counterparts is a correct strategy for developing new anti-cancer therapies, and the success of this approach relies on identification of specific target genes in CSCs. Using BCR-ABL-induced chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) as a cancer model, we recently identified arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) gene (Alox5) as a critical regulator for leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in CML. Without Alox5, BCR-ABL fails to induce CML in mice due to the impairments of the functions of LSCs. The lack of Alox5 does not significantly affect the functions of normal hematopoietic stem cells. In addition, Zileuton, a specific 5-LO inhibitor, also causes the impairments of the functions of LSCs in a similar manner. Our results prove the principle that CSC-specific genes that play key roles in cancer development can be identified and inhibition of these genes can lead to eradication of these cells for cure. Here, we further discuss the mechanisms of Alox5 in CML, and the use of Zileuton as a potential and promising drug in eradicating LSCs in CML and other myeloproliferative diseases. We believe that our discovery of the role of Alox5 in regulating the function of LSCs in CML reminds us of viewing CSCs at a different angel. We predict that CSCs in other types of cancer also utilize specific regulatory pathways to control their survival and self-renewal, and inhibition of these pathways profoundly suppresses CSCs but not their normal stem cell counterparts. Specific targeting of CSCs without causing significant harm to normal stem cells should be a correct direction to go in developing novel therapeutic strategies in the future.

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