Zejuan Li, M.D., Ph.D.

zejuan li

The University of Chicago
The role of miR-126 in core-binding factor acute myeloid leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the most common types of leukemia, is a cancer of blood cells that originate in the bone marrow. Two common subtypes of AMLs are associated with chromosome rearrangements, such as translocations between chromosome 8 and 21 or inversions within chromosome 16. These chromosome rearrangements result in the disruption of a protein that is a regulator of normal development of the blood system, which leads to a type of AML, namely CBF leukemias. The proportion of CBF leukemias is twice as large in children as in adults, and the disease-free survival at five years is only 55-60%; this fact makes its improved treatment an especially urgent problem. RNA is a biologically important type of molecule that is copied from DNA. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are recently identified, very small RNA molecules which regulate gene expression. Dr. Li’s lab found that one of these small RNAs (miR-126) is specifically over-expressed in CBF leukemias. Their preliminary results suggest that its overexpression may function as a cancer-associated mutational event in leukemogenesis. Therefore, Dr. Li will determine the importance of the role and the relevant pathways that miR-126 regulates in the development of CBF leukemias. These studies may lead to the identification of critical targets for the effective treatment of leukemias, particularly CBF leukemias.