SEATTLE--With advanced molecular genetic techniques now available to researchers for the identification and study of genes involved in cancer, the question arises: Is the study of chromosomal translocations, additions, and deletions still a worthwhile pursuit?
Janet Rowley, MD, DSc, speaking at the American Society of Hematology's subcommittee on pediatric hematology program at the ASH annual meeting, gave an emphatic yes and cited new research to back up her enthusiasm.
Dr. Rowley, professor of medicine, University of Chicago, and the members of her laboratory at the University's Franklin McLean Memorial Research Institute have been involved in characterizing a newly identified, ETS-family transcription factor called TEL, which has been implicated in acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL).
The gene coding for TEL (translocation ETS leukemia protein) was discovered by pursuing the observation that the cells of many ALL patients carry a particular translocation involving chromosome 12p.
[The research on TEL as a fusion partner for ABL was formally presented at a scientific session of the ASH meeting (abstract 1043).]
"There are several hundred translocations still out there, waiting to have their genetic breakpoints defined," Dr. Rowley said.
"It's important to further identify the rearrangements that are consistently associated with each of the leukemias. Also, we need to look at the diagnosis, and whether a patient has only, say, a t(8;21) translocation, or a t(15;17)--or are there other changes already present in the karyotype of the cells?"