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Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 1996 Mar;15(3):147-56.

Retinoic acid regulatory pathways, chromosomal translocations, and acute promyelocytic leukemia.

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Shanghai Institute of Hematology, Rui-Jin Hospital, Shanghai Second Medical University, Peoples Republic of China.


Retinoic acids (RAs) exert a broad range of physiologic actions during embryonic development and adult life. Two families of RA receptors, retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and retinoid X receptor (RXR), have been identified. The therapeutic effect of all-trans-RA (ATRA) in induction of remission for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) has largely been proved, and this has, over the past 10 years, greatly stimulated research on oncogenesis and RA-regulated differentiation pathways. In APL, one of the RAR genes, RARA, is fused to PML in the great majority of patients as a result of the chromosomal translocation t(15; 17). However, a small subset of APL patients have a different fusion gene, PLZF-RARA, resulting from the variant translocation t(11;17). A third translocation, t(5;17), in which the NPM gene is fused to RARA, has been described. Current data suggest that PML-RAR alpha and PLZF-RAR alpha fusion receptors may play an important role in the development of APL and that PML-RAR alpha could be the target of ATRA differentiation therapy. Characterization of the genes regulated by retinoic acid may open up new prospects for an understanding of the mechanisms of ATRA differentiation therapy for APL and may help to extend the concept of cancer-targeting treatment to other types of leukemias or solid tumors.

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