Researchers from the University of Chicago and Cincinnati Children’s have created the first mouse model for a deadly form of infant leukemia. Their achievement was published Nov. 14, 2016, in Cancer Cell.

The model replicates a genetic flaw—MLL-AF4 fusion—that results in pro-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), responsible for nearly 70 percent of infant and 10 percent of childhood and adult ALL. People with the disease produce vast numbers of dysfunctional blood cells. Its prognosis is among the worst for any acute leukemia.

Michael Thirman, MD, University of Chicago, has long studied the disease, but was unsuccessful creating a mouse model that mimicked it. James Mulloy, PhD, and Shan Lin, both of our Division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, worked with Thirman to finally produce a mouse model with leukemia identical to humans—an accomplishment crucial to developing and testing new drug therapies.