A patent from CEITEC MU and the University Hospital Brno will give doctors a clue how to treat leukemias

12. Sept. 2016

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A new method developed by experts from CEITEC Masaryk University and the University Hospital Brno (FN Brno) will help doctors to estimate how patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and B-cell lymphomas will react to the latest treatment. It is based on measuring the level of molecules which regulate the activity of B-lymphocytes, i.e. the immune systems cells which are subject to cancerous growth.  This method has been newly patented in the Czech Republic.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia belongs to one of the most frequent leukemias which occurs in adults. However the prognosis of and the reaction to the treatment differs significantly with each patient. Our method can help doctors to partially predict whether patients will react to a certain therapy,” Marek Mráz, who led the team consisting of experts from CEITEC MU and the Clinic of Internal Medicine - Hematology and Oncology in FN Brno, said.

Leukemias may originate in such a way that B-lymphocytes start to reproduce uncontrollably. B-lymphocytes are immune system cells normally responsible for the protection against infection. B-lymphocytes recognize infection by means of B-cell receptors, i.e. molecules on their surface, which give the cell a signal to reproduce when meeting an infection. It is this signalling pathway that is incorrectly regulated when leukemia starts and some modern medication is based on blocking it.

We have described that the activity of this signalling pathway is controlled by microRNA molecules, and it is the level of these two molecules that we measure. Patients, who have low levels, will be very likely to have a more aggressive type of the illness and will react to the treatment worse,” Mráz described the principle of the patent. The Technology Transfer Office of Masaryk University was involved in the patent´s registration with the Industrial Property Office. Now experts are investigating the possibility of cooperation with a commercial partner, who could develop a testing kit for common use in hospitals. 

The patent is one of many results of the work of the research team which will on 15th September receive a prestigious award from the Czech Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – the Josef V. Koštíř Award. The experts are continuing working on the research of the signalling pathway which influences the origin of leukemia and the effect of substances which can block it. “We are looking for potential combinations of medication, which could both block the signalling pathway, which is being studied, and also attack cancerous cells through other molecules located on the surface of B-lymphocytes,” Mráz added.