AbstractRAS genes encode a family of 21 kDa proteins that are an essential hub for a number of survival, proliferation, differentiation and senescence pathways. Signaling of the RAS-GTPases through the RAF-MEK-ERK pathway, the first identified mitogen-associated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade is essential in development. A group of genetic syndromes, named “RASopathies”, had been identified which are caused by heterozygosity for germline mutations in genes that encode protein components of the RAS/MAPK pathway. Several of these clinically overlapping disorders, including Noonan syndrome, Noonan-like CBL syndrome, Costello syndrome, cardio-facio-cutaneous (CFC) syndrome, neurofibromatosis type I, and Legius syndrome, predispose to cancer and abnormal myelopoiesis in infancy. This review focuses on juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), a malignancy of early childhood characterized by initiating germline and/or somatic mutations in five genes of the RAS/MAPK pathway: PTPN11, CBL, NF-1, KRAS and NRAS. Natural courses of these five subtypes differ, although hematopoietic stem cell transplantation remains the only curative therapy option for most children with JMML. With whole-exome sequencing studies revealing few secondary lesions it will be crucial to better understand the RAS/MAPK signaling network with its crosstalks and feed-back loops to carefully design early clinical trials with novel pharmacological agents in this still puzzling leukemia.
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Vol. 99 No. 11 (2014): November, 2014 : Review Articles
Ferrata Storti Foundation, Pavia, Italy
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