Differentiation therapy

Differentiation therapy: An approach to the treatment of advanced or aggressive malignancies in which the malignant cells are treated so that they can resume the process of maturation and differentiation into mature cells.

Differentiation therapy is based on the concept that cancer cells are normal cells that have been arrested at or have gone back to an immature or less differentiated state, lack the ability to control their own growth, and so multiply at an abnormally fast rate. Differentiation therapy aims to force the cancer cell to resume the process of maturation. Although differentiation therapy does not destroy the cancer cells, it restrains their growth and allows the application of more conventional therapies (such as chemotherapy) to eradicate the malignant cells. Differentiation agents tend to have less toxicity than conventional cancer treatments.

The first differentiation agent found to be successful was all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). APL is the result of a translocation (an exchange of chromosome material) between chromosomes 15 and 17. There are two chromosome breaks: one in chromosome 15 and the other in chromosome 17. The break in chromosome 15 disrupts the promyelocytic leukemia (PML) gene which encodes a growth suppressing transcription factor. And the break in chromosome 17 interrupts the retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARa) gene which regulates myeloid differentiation. The translocation creates a PML/RARa fusion gene. It produces an abnormal protein referred to as a chimeric protein that causes an arrest of maturation in myeloid cell maturation at the promyelocytic stage. (It reduces terminal cell differentiation.) And this causes the increased proliferation of promyelocytes.

Most APL patients are now treated first with all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA). It causes the promyelocytes to differentiate (to mature) and so deters them from proliferating. ATRA induces a complete remission in about 70% of cases. ATRA is the prototype of a differentiation therapy agent.

Read Also:

  • Diffuse degeneration of gray matter with cirrhosis

    Diffuse degeneration of gray matter with cirrhosis: A progressive disease of the nervous system characterized by spasticity (tightness), myoclonus and dementia and by liver problems with jaundice and cirrhosis. This disorder, first described by Alpers in 1931 as “Diffuse progressive degeneration of gray matter of cerebrum”, usually begins early in life with convulsions. A continuous […]

  • Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis

    A form of degenerative arthritis characteristically associated with flowing calcification along the sides of the vertebrae of the spine. Abbreviated DISH. DISH commonly includes inflammation (tendonitis) and calcification of the tendons at their points of attachment to bone. Anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be helpful in relieving both pain and inflammation. Also called […]

  • Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) Medical Definition

    Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG): a highly aggressive type of brain tumor found in the pons, a part of the brainstem. The brainstem controls many vital functions, like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. About 300 children are affected each year by DIPGs. They most commonly occur in children 5-9 years of age and can […]

  • Diffuse mastocytosis

    Diffuse mastocytosis: A form of mastocytosis in which the entire skin is thickened and leathery with generalized reddening and intense pruritus (itching) due to widespread infiltration of the skin with mast cells. Treatment may include antihistamines, drugs to reduce stomach acid, migraine headache drugs for headache, and cromolyn for bowel symptoms. Also called diffuse cutaneous […]

  • Diffuse toxic goiter

    Diffuse toxic goiter: Graves disease, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), with generalized diffuse overactivity (“toxicity”) of the entire thyroid gland which becomes enlarged into a goiter. There are three clinical components to Graves disease: Hyperthyroidism (the presence of too much thyroid hormone), Ophthalmopathy specifically involving exophthalmos (protrusion of the […]

Disclaimer: Differentiation therapy definition / meaning should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. All content on this website is for informational purposes only.