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[Basic and clinical studies of the gene product-targeting therapy based on leukemogenesis--editorial].

[Article in Chinese]


In the last twenty years, using all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) as a differentiation inducer, Shanghai Institute of Hematology has achieved an important breakthrough in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), which realized the theory of reversing phenotype of cells and provided a successful model of differentiation therapy in cancers. Our group first discovered in the world the variant chromosome translocation t(11;17)(q23;q21) of APL, and cloned the PML-RAR alpha, PLZF-RAR alpha and NPM-RAR alpha fusion genes corresponding to the characterized chromosome translocations t(15;17); t(11;17) and t(5;17) in APL. Moreover, establishment of transgenic mice model of APL proved their effects on leukemogenesis. The ability of ATRA to modify the recruitment of nuclear receptor co-repressor with PML-RAR alpha but not PLZF-RAR alpha caused by the variant chromosome translocation elucidated the therapeutic mechanism of ATRA from the molecular level and provides new insight into transcription-modulating therapy. Since 1994, our group has successfully applied arsenic trioxide (As(2)O(3)) in treating relapsed APL patients, with the complete remission rate of 70% - 80%. The molecular mechanism study revealed that As(2)O(3) exerts a dose-dependent dual effect on APL. Low-dose As(2)O(3) induced partial differentiation of APL cells, while the higher dose induced apoptosis. As(2)O(3) binds ubiquitin like SUMO-1 through the lysine 160 of PML, resulting in the degradation of PML-RAR alpha. Taken together, ATRA and As(2)O(3) target the transcription factor PML-RAR alpha, the former by retinoic acid receptor and the latter by PML sumolization, both induce PML-RAR alpha degradation and APL cells differentiation and apoptosis. Because of the different acting pathways, ATRA and As(2)O(3) have no cross-resistance and can be used as combination therapy. Clinical trial in newly diagnosed APL patients showed that ATRA/As(2)O(3) in combination yields a longer disease-free survival time. With the median survival of 18 months, none of the 20 cases in combination treatment relapsed, whereas 7 relapsed in 37 cases in mono-treatment. This is the best clinical effect achieved in treating adult acute leukemia to this day, possibly making APL the first adult curable leukemia. Based on the great success of the pathogenetic gene target therapy in APL, this strategy may extend to other leukemias. Combination of Gleevec and arsenic agents in treating chronic myeloid leukemia has already make a figure both in clinical and laboratory research, aiming at counteracting the abnormal tyrosine kinase activity of ABL and the degradating BCR-ABL fusion protein. In acute myeloid leukemia M(2b), using new target therapy degradating AML1-ETO fusion protein and reducing the abnormal tyrosine kinase activity of c-kit will also lead to new therapeutic management in acute leukemias.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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