A new drug candidate shows potential in laboratory studies against a rare type of acute leukemia, mixed lineage leukemia, which occurs more often in children. Researchers have developed small-molecule inhibitors that potentially block the interaction between the protein menin and mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) fusion proteins that cause the rare acute leukemia. Preclinical tests demonstrate the compounds blocked the MLL-menin interaction without harming normal blood cells, Dr. Dmitry Borkin of the University of Michigan and his associates reported ( Cancer Cell 2015 [ doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2015.02.016 ]).

In addition, a team of prostate cancer researchers also at the University of Michigan discovered that menin and MLL play a role in androgen-receptor signaling, a key driver of prostate cancer. They found that the MLL protein complex acts as a coactivator of androgen-receptor signaling suggesting that further research into MLL inhibitors could eventually yield new treatment methods for hard to treat prostate cancer, too.

“Taken together, this work identifies the MLL complex as a crucial coactivator of AR and a potential therapeutic target in advanced prostate cancer,” the authors wrote.

Read the full study in Nature Medicine 2015 (doi:10.1038/nm.3830).