A team of researchers has developed an experimental treatment that eradicates an acute type of leukemia in mice without any detectable toxic side effects.

The drug by scientists from UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center works by blocking two important metabolic pathways that the leukemia cells need to grow and spread.

The study was led by Dr. Caius Radu, an associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA, and Dr. David Nathanson, an assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology.

Elements of metabolism called biosynthetic pathways allow cells to synthesize chemicals, called nucleotides that they need to survive. When these nucleotide pathways are blocked by drug molecules, cancer cell growth can be halted, which can trigger cell death.

Radu, Nathanson and their colleagues found that an important nucleotide called deoxycytidine triphosphate (dCTP) is produced by two pathways, the de novo pathway and the nucleoside salvage pathway.

In the study, the experimental treatment was given to mice with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a deadly blood cancer. The treatment eradicated the cancer cells, leaving healthy blood cells alone, and the mice suffered no discernible side effects.

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