A study carried out at the University of California, San Francisco has opened a door to the treatment of a type of leukemia in children that does not respond to chemotherapy, lead author Ernesto Diaz Flores told Efe on Wednesday.

The results of his more than six years of work were published this week in the prestigious magazine Science Signaling and explain the behavior of the Ras oncogene in the case of a type of leukemia similar to juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia.

"It's an exhaustive analysis of the mechanism of how a mutation in a gene can alter the protein and how that protein can alter the function of the cell and cause leukemia as a result," said Diaz, who holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the Autonomous University of Madrid but has been pursuing his career for the past nine years in California.

The 39-year-old Spaniard has specialized in the biochemistry of the cancer process with the aim of deciphering the elements that cause a mutated gene to result in the formation of a tumor.

"Up to now it was believed that the Ras oncogene was continuously activated making cells multiply without stopping, generating leukemia, however our study shows that the oncogene needs some factors in the blood called cytokines to induce the multiplication," he said.

Diaz, who worked with UCSF's Kevin Shannon and a group of researchers, found the proteins that control the entire process, which lays the basis for possible applications in patient therapies.

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