2009.09.28 – New hope in fight against blood cancer


New hope in fight against blood cancer


Scientists have found a genetic “switch” that can trigger leukaemia. And they believe its discovery could lead to a cure.

Leukaemia, which causes 4,350 deaths a year in the UK, is a cancer of the immune system’s white blood cells.

Like the Aids virus HIV, the disease leaves the body less able to fight infections.

It is still unclear what causes the cancer but it has been linked to smoking, exposure to radiation and viral infection.

Scientists at Cambridge University’s Gurdon Institute believe a gene called JAK2 acts as a “master switch”, turning other genes “on” or “off”.

Prof Sir David Lane, of Cancer Research UK, said: “These findings give scientists new opportunities to develop drugs to block leukaemia.”

A leukaemia drug could help save the fertility of women undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

The therapy can trigger premature menopause but Rome University scientists found the process can be blocked by leukaemia drug Imatinib.