Defective ‘protein factory’ linked to aggressive leukemia

London, Dec 10 (IANS) Researchers in Belgium have found that 20 to 40 per cent of patients with the multiple myeloma type of leukaemia have a defect in the ribosome, the protein factory of the cell.

Multiple myeloma (MM, also known as Kahler’s disease) is a blood cancer in which the plasma cells in the bone marrow start proliferating malignantly.

The disease cannot be cured and is most common among older people. Various treatments exist to temporarily suppress the disease, but the challenge is determining to which treatment the patient will respond best.

The researchers believe that the new findings – published in the journal Leukemia – can lead to tests to identify defects in the protein factory and also determine an effective therapy.

“The ribosome is the protein factory of a cell. In MM patients, one part of the ribosome is produced less in 20 to 40 percent of the patients, depending on how aggressive the cancer is. We suspect that their cells are still producing protein, but that the balance is somewhat disrupted,” said Kim De Keersmaecker, Professor at University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium.

“On the basis of these findings, we can now develop tests to identify defects in the ribosome and thus determine which therapy will have most effect in a specific patient,” she said.

The notion that cancer is related to ribosome defects is a relatively new concept in science.

“A few years ago, we discovered defects in the ribosome of patients with acute lymphatic leukaemia. Now we know that the same applies to MM,” De Keersmaecker said.

In all likelihood, this will also hold true for other types of cancer, she noted.

–IANS

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