A new treatment approach may eventually help young patients respond better to treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), according to the results of a new study published in Nature Communications.

The study conducted in mice revealed that when the production of nucleotides, considered the building blocks of life, is stopped, a DNA replication response is activated that allows cancer cells to survive. However, a three-drug combination treatment inhibited the DNA response, killing cancer cells and eradicating ALL in the mouse models.

Two of the drugs, triapine (3-AP) and DI-82, were used to lower nucleotide levels. The third drug, VE-822, is used to inhibit the ATR enzyme, which is the master regulator of the DNA replication stress response, and makes cancer cells more sensitive to the low levels of nucleotides. VE-822 also promotes long-term survival in mice without toxicity.