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Greek Researcher Searches for New Drug Preventing Leukemia

British scientists conducting an early-stage research have found that a potential new drug could treat mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL). The leader of this research is Tony Kouzarides, Professor of the University of Cambridge.

Scientists of Kouzarides’ team, after having published a relevant article in the magazine ‘Nature’, have shown that the MLL-fusion proteins are targeted to leukemia-causing genes by proteins from the BET family, which recognize certain chemical “tags” on chromatin, the scaffold on which DNA is arranged.

Using I-BET151 to treat leukaemias in mice and human cancer cells in a lab, the researchers found that the chemical could halt the disease, paving the way for more research to be done in first-stage, or so-called Phase I, human trials.

Kouzarides’ team found that the experimental drug, called I-BET151, mimics a chemical tag which is key to preventing the process of activating the leukemia genes. Afterwards, researchers (among them Greek origin Yiorgos Yiotopoulos of the Department of Haematology in the university of Cambridge) using I-BET151 from GlaxoSmithKline, showed that it disrupts the normal function of MLL by creating a new “fusion protein” that behaves wrongly, switching on genes that drive the development of leukemia.

“Although this research is only in the lab at the moment, we hope it will move quickly toward clinical trials in people.”

Tony Kouzarides is an internationally recognized leader in the field of epigenetics. He is a Royal Society Professor at the University of Cambridge and a member of the Science Strategy Advisory Group for Cancer Research UK and SAB member of several research institutes in Greece and Spain. Professor Kouzarides has been awarded several international prizes for his research and is the author of many publications, many in high profile science journals.

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