An “Achilles Heel” for Mixed-Lineage Leukemia

Megan Morrey Emerging Scientist, Research Updates, Stories

Maxim Pimkin, MD, PhD at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston is exploring how depleting two proteins in the body could save children with an especially dangerous kind of leukemia.

Research helps kids like Harriet, who is fighting leukemia. Click to read “Spicy One -Harriet’s Story.”

The problem

Research has progressed exceedingly for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), but patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) have a much poorer prognosis with a less than 70 percent 5-year survival rate. A subtype of AML, called mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) is particularly difficult to treat, and mostly occurs in babies.

How his research will help:

Dr. Pimkin focuses on understanding how a class of proteins called transcription factors work to turn genes on and off. He recently discovered two transcription factors which MLL AML cells seem to need in order to survive.

By studying these transcription factors and their interactions with other important proteins in MLL AML, he hopes to find an “Achilles heel” therapy which will selectively kill cancer cells.  CCRF funding will help his lab pay for equipment, facilities, and staff who will conduct this leading-edge research.

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