Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, making up about a third of all pediatric cancers. And scientists all over the world have been continuously working to improve treatment options for leukaemia patients.
And now a new study has shown that molecular building block of many animal proteins, the amino acid valine, plays a key role in cancerous growth seen in T cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
The research has been published in the 'Nature Journal'.
As per the study, the genes involved in using up valine in cells were more active in cancerous T cells than in normal T cells.
The study led by researchers at NYU Langone Health, its Department of Pathology, and the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center found that blocking these valine-linked genes not only led to decreased valine in leukaemia blood T cells but also stalled these tumour cells from growing in the lab. Only 2 per cent of cancerous T cells remained alive.
The study's co-lead investigator Palaniraja Thandapani, PhD said that the findings have confirmed that T cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is absolutely dependent on a supply of valine and that valine deficiency can stall this cancer's progression.
Further, experiments suggested that changes (mutations) in the DNA code of the gene NOTCH1, the most commonly seen in patients who develop leukaemia, encouraged cancer growth in part by increasing valine levels.
The research involved experiments in human leukaemia cells grown in the lab and also transplanted into mice that then develop this cancer, which has its origins in white blood cells in the bone marrow.
The research team has planned next year to test whether diets low in valine-rich foods, such as meat, fish, and beans, are an effective treatment in people with cancer.
Thandapani said low-valine diets are readily available, as they are already being used to treat acid imbalances in the body tied to genetic disorders that affect gut metabolism.
Funding support for the study was provided by National Institutes of Health grants P30CA016087, P01 CA229086 and R01 CA228135; the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; New York State Department of Health's Study finds nutrient's role in childhood blood cancerNYSTEM program; and the American Association for Cancer Research Incyte Corporation Leukemia Research Fellowship.
Besides Thandapani, Aifantis and Tsirigos, other NYU Langone researchers involved in the study co-lead investigators Andreas Kloetgen; Matthew Witkowski; and Christina Glytsou; and study co-investigators Anna Lee; Eric Wang, Jingjing Wang; Sarah LeBoeuf; Kleopatra Avrampou; and Thales Papagiannakopoulos.