Research Conducted at SCMCI has uncovered the causes for developing one of the most lethal types of Leukemia

Prof. Izraeli

For the first time in the history of science, researchers manipulated normal human blood cells to become malignant leukemia cells, using advanced technologies in genetic engineering, and were successful in discovering the causes for development of one of the most lethal types of blood cancer (leukemia). The research was led by Dr. Yifat Garon as part of the group headed by Prof. Shai Izraeli, Director of the Hemato-Oncology Division at Schneider Children’s, together with the Felsenstein Institute, Tel Aviv University and other research centers in Israel and abroad. The breakthrough research, which extended over 8 years, was recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

Severe lymphoblastic leukemia is a disease manifested by an accumulation of abnormal blood cells in the bone marrow. Children account for 1% of cancer patients around the world, and each year, about 400-450 children are diagnosed with malignancies in Israel. Aproximately 25% of children with cancer have leukemia. Ten years ago, a new type of leukemia was discovered by the name of PH LIKE, with an extremely low prognosis for survival, even though the rate of recovery for other types of leukemia reaches about 90% today. Those with PH LIKE have a recovery rate of only 50-60%.

Over the years, many attempts have been made in Israel and around the world to characterize the various genetic components of the “new” leukemia, but it was unclear  which characteristics constituted the main catalyst leading to the disease’s development. In this case, researchers created, for the first time, leukemia from human blood cells that were obtained from umbilical cord blood in the lab, and which were absolutely identical to the leukemia cells that developed spontaneously in children. The examination of the data showed that the presence of only two components, among all known mutations, are sufficient and necessary for the onset of leukemia.

According to Prof. Izraeli, “this research has far-reaching implications. Firstly, by revealing the specific components connected to the development of the disease, it is possible to extrapolate the findings for the development of targeted medications, thus beckoning the future where we can cure each child with leukemia with the minimum amount of side-effects from therapy. Secondly, the model that Dr. Garon created, based on human blood cells and not those in mice, serves as a precedent according to which we can advance general research of blood cancers in children and adults.”