FLT3 plays a role in many things, but the focus of this article is to define FLT3 and how it relates to specifically to Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). It is important to note that this article is written from the layperson's perspective and is not intended to be medical advice. Rather it is meant to be a starting point and to help facilitate dialog between you and your oncologist.
FLT3 and Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
There are many types of mutations that can occur in AML, and FLT3 is one of them. Simply put, FLT3 is a gene, and stands for "Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3." When saying the word out loud, it's pronounced "flit three." Normally, healthy FLT3 is necessary for the production of a type of blood cells (T and B cells mostly), but when it mutates it may cause AML. One type of FLT3 mutation is FLT3-ITD (internal tandem duplication) where the person has an extra copy of part of the protein. There are also other types of FLT3 mutations such as FLT3-wild and FLT3-TKD (thyrosine kinase domaine), but the difference between these types is beyond the scope of this article.
A Simple Analogy
When functioning normally, FLT3 is good. It helps our body produce certain types of white blood cells that are necessary to keep our immune systems healthy. The problem is some people's FLT3 gene can become altered. This is known as a mutation. When a FLT3 mutation occurs, normal healthy blood cells may turn into leukemia cells (blasts). I like to think of the FLT3 mutation as light switch. When the mutation has been triggered, the light switch is on and the body cranks out the blasts instead of healthy cells. When the mutated light switch is off, normal healthy cells are produced. If researchers can find a way to turn off this mutated light switch, perhaps we'll have a cure. The encouraging news is, that's exactly what they are working on!
It's exciting to see how many clinical trials are being done on a class of drugs call "FLT3 Inhibitors." In essence, they're trying to shut off the light switch! At the time this article was written, ClinicalTrials.gov shows there are 19 trials underway for treating AML with FLT3 Inhibitors. That's 19 steps in the right direction to finding a cure for AML with the FLT3 mutation!
Last Updated on Saturday, 14 August 2010 11:56