According to a story from med.miami.edu, a team of researchers working at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is part of the University of Miami School of Medicine, made a significant discovery that could lead to a new approach to treating acute myeloid leukemia. Data from their research revealed than inhibiting an enzyme called CARM1 (also known as PRMT4) was able to slow down the progression of acute myeloid leukemia. In addition, this action was able to achieve this effect without affecting the production of healthy blood.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a form of cancer that affects myeloid blood cells and causes the accumulation of abnormal cells that appear in the bone marrow and blood. this process causes an interruption in the production of normal cells. The disease is lethal within months or even weeks without intervention. Risk factors for acute myeloid leukemia include other disorders of the blood, exposure to ionizing radiation, exposure to certain chemicals (including some chemo agents), and family history. It can spread to the skin, brain, and gums. Symptoms include infections, fever, fatigue, bone and joint pain, loss of weight and appetite, anemia, shortness of breath, and easy bruising and bleeding. It can sometimes be cured, but the overall five year survival rate is only 27 percent. To learn more about acute myeloid leukemia, click here.
The study results suggest that CARM1 is a requirement for the creation of leukemia cells, but not for the creation of healthy blood cells. The team tested this a found that it was impossible to create leukemia cells that lacked the CARM1 gene. Dr. Stephen Nimer, who directs the Sylvester Center and was the senior investigator on the study, says that the leukemia characteristics also disappeared completely when the gene was shut off in cancer cells.
Conventional chemotherapy approaches for acute myeloid leukemia are not often effective, and patients with relapsed cancer almost never survive for long. Other studies have illustrated that patients with the highest expression of the CARM1 gene routinely have the worst outcomes.
CARM1 has been implicated in many other types of cancer as well; the team tested an experimental inhibitor drug that was able to significantly slow down disease progression. Hopefully, a new class of CARM1 inhibitors will be able to offer a more effective treatment for patients with this deadly form of cancer as well as many other types.