The Italian Almanac

medical research

Italian Science - January 7

Italian researchers have discovered a new form of leukemia, a blood cancer that kills millions of people a year. The Milan researchers have found a gene responsible for threatening the lives of patients with so-called 'good leukemia', a milder form that usually responds well to treatment. Up till now doctors have been baffled as to why these patients suddenly take a turn for the worst.

The Italians now believe that the gene, called c-KIT, mutates to make tumour cells more aggressive and resistant to treatment. The discovery could lead to special treatment for this set of patients as soon as they are diagnosed, significantly improving their chances. Researchers say they have already conceived a targeted therapy for patients with 'good' leukemia.

The Italians' work has been published in the online version of the authoritative American medical journal Blood. In the study, a Milan hospital team led by Roberto Cairoli and Enrica Morra worked for two years to track 67 patients with the 'good' form of the disease in six blood-treatment centres across Italy. The team's lab work was bolstered by the Milan University genetic medicine department under Alessandro Beghini and Lidia Larizza.