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Identification of drug-resistant cell subsets in human leukemia


Last week I attended a talk about detection and eradication of drug-resistant leukemias given by Dario Campana [1] from St. Jude Research Children’s Hospital [2]. I woke up at the moment when he started to talk about last year’s publication in Nature [3], defining multipotent earliest thymic (T-cell) progenitors (ETP) from 2 research groups – Bhandoola [4]and Wada [5]. He said that when these publications came up they realized that ETP, described in mouse thymus, could be exactly the same subset of cells, that determines drug-resistance in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL) in their patients. It took them Less than a year to extrapolate and jump from research findings to fully characterize this population and report the results!

What really thrilled me was that it was one of the best examples of how translational research could be done! I love it! I even gave a name for this kind of translation: “from Nature and Science to New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet“. That’s what we need. We really really need it.

Also, this study answered one of my favorite questions: “Why do we need to know that many progenitors from stem to mature cells?” I hope it’s going to help children, dying from leukemia.


So, the authors of recently published study identify ETP in human, which is the underlying reason of so called “early T-cell precursor” ALL – drug-resistant leukemia with high level of minimal residual disease in bone marrow and poor prognosis. Human ETP coexpress myeloid and stem-cell markers. The next step should be defining chemotherapeutic treatment strategy and time for hematopoietic stem cell transplant in this group of patients.

This study basically showed how we can extrapolate our knowledge from mice to human and clinic. St. Jude Children Hospital doing great job with it. They have a lot of translational research and clinical trials going, including sophisticated cell therapeutics approaches.

Lancet Onclogy 2009;10;2:147 [6]

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picture credit [7]


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