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04 January 2011

Protein That Drives Survival of Gastrointestinal Tumors Identified

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For patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GISTs, the blockbuster cancer drug Gleevec has been a reason to hope

Since the drug's introduction, survival rates have climbed dramatically and recurrence has fallen by two-thirds. But there's a downside: over time, many patients develop resistance to the drug. Now, scientists at Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have identified a molecule that acts as a survival factor for gastrointestinal tumors, a finding that may lead to next-generation therapies that can pick up where Gleevec leaves off.

Gleevec was initially approved for fighting chronic myelogenous leukemia and it targets the BCR-ABL fusion protein that causes that rare blood disease. But Gleevec also inhibits the activated KIT receptor tyrosine kinase. Scientists have known that mutations in the gene that codes for KIT are responsible for development of GISTs, as well as other cancers such as melanomas, which makes Gleevec a potent treatment for GISTs.


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