Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Computer and Security Science
A therapeutic strategy for treating cancer is to target and eradicate cancer stem cells (CSCs) without harming their normal stem cell counterparts. The success of this approach relies on the identification of molecular pathways that selectively regulate CSC function. Using BCR-ABL–induced chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) as a disease model for CSCs, we show that BCR-ABL downregulates the Blk gene (encoding B-lymphoid kinase) through c-Myc in leukemic stem cells (LSCs) in CML mice and that Blk functions as a tumor suppressor in LSCs but does not affect normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) or hematopoiesis. Blk suppresses LSC function through a pathway involving an upstream regulator, Pax5, and a downstream effector, p27. Inhibition of this Blk pathway accelerates CML development, whereas increased activity of the Blk pathway delays CML development. Blk also suppresses the proliferation of human CML stem cells. Our results show the feasibility of selectively targeting LSCs, an approach that should be applicable to other cancers.