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PAK2 promising target for leukemia

The p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are key nodes in oncogenic signalling pathways controlling growth, survival, and motility of cancer cells. Their activity is increased in many human cancers and is associated with poor prognosis. We show now that PAK1 and PAK2 are the critical isoforms in a BCR/ABL1+ haematopoietic malignancy. In suspension, leukaemic cells deficient for PAK1 and PAK2 undergo apoptosis, while the loss of either protein is well tolerated. However, we found that leukaemic cells explicitly require PAK2 to grow towards an extracellular matrix. PAK2-deficient cells fail to form colonies in methylcellulose and to induce lymphomas in vivo. PAK2 might therefore be the critical isoform in leukaemic cells by controlling tumour growth in a dual manner: vascularization via exosome-mediated transfer to endothelial cells and remodelling of the extracellular matrix. These findings suggests that the PAK2 isoform represents a promising target for the treatment of haematological diseases. The data were now published by a consortium of Viennese scientists including researchers from the LBI-CR in the British Journal of Haematology under the title "Expansion of BCR/ABL1+ cells requires PAK2 but not PAK1".