Researchers discover potent next generation of drugs to fight leukemia and lymphoma

UT Health San Antonio researchers, working with collaborators at the University of Florida, have discovered a safe and potent next generation of drugs to fight multiple types of leukemia and lymphoma in adults and children. The journal Nature Medicine reported the findings Dec. 2.

This is a new class of drugs called PROTACs that target an essential survival protein in cancer cells called BCL-XL. The previous drugs that have targeted BCL-XL decrease platelets dangerously, with a high risk of bleeding. Our drug markedly reduces that risk, and thus would be potentially far more useful in cancer patients.

Research co-author Robert Hromas, M.D., FACP, professor of medicine and dean of the university’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine

he PROTAC reported here would treat T-cell malignancies such as T-cell acute leukemia and T-cell lymphoma, Dr. Hromas, a noted hematologist and oncologist, said.

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T cells are produced by a gland in the upper chest called the thymus. These cells are very important participants in the body’s immune response. When they turn cancerous, they rely on BCL-XL for survival.

Dr. Hromas is joined on the paper by several co-authors from the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute at UT Health San Antonio.

PROTAC drugs degrade the BCL-XL protein rather than merely inhibiting it. Potentially this class of drug can be developed against certain childhood cancers that have been untreatable.

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