Scientists seek out cancer cells hiding from treatment

Scientists hope to improve leukaemia treatment by investigating how cancer cells use 'hiding places' in the body to avoid chemotherapy drugs.

Each year 300 British children are diagnosed with acute , a cancer of the blood. The majority respond well to current therapies, but the disease returns in a quarter of patients. The long term outlook for is much worse, with initial treatments being effective in fewer than half of all patients.

Now, researchers from Imperial College London will begin a three year project to explore how some cancer cells evade treatment, thanks to new funding from charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Lead researcher, Dr Cristina Lo Celso, Lecturer in Immunology in Imperial's Department of Life Sciences, said: "We believe that some evasive cancer cells hide in protective compartments inside the body while patients receive treatment. If we understand where the cancer cells hide, we will be able to develop better ways to treat patients by eliminating all cancer cells and avoiding disease relapse."

Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, where they grow and take on a variety of forms within compartments called niches inside bones. Dr Lo Celso's team believe that in the bones of Leukaemia patients, some of these compartments have been 'hijacked' by leukaemia cells, where they serve as effective hiding places during treatment. "Once we can see how this happens drugs can be developed that target the hiding places. This will have a dramatic impact on the design of new drugs for blood cancers like acute lymphoblastic leukaemia," she said.

Dr Lo Celso and colleague Dr Edwin Hawkins will use high powered microscopes in Imperial's Facility for Imaging by Light Microscopy (FILM) to observe using fluorescent light. They will use this technique to track the movement of the evasive leukaemia cells in laboratory mice and hope to learn where these cells go during cancer treatment.

Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: "Leukaemia occurs when the machinery that controls how blood cells grow and die breaks down. We now know that both normal blood cells and leukaemia cells are produced by a small number of stem cells that live inside compartments in our bone marrow. Understanding how these leukaemia cells hide from powerful anti-cancer drugs is vital to creating treatments for patients that will work faster and prevent the disease from returning."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists identify genetic drivers of leukaemia

Aug 02, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at Newcastle University have discovered three key genetic errors which can dictate how adult patients develop leukaemia and respond to treatment and could help doctors adapt ...

New research provides hope for childhood cancer sufferers

Jul 16, 2007

Scientists investigating drug therapies for children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) have presented new data demonstrating for the very first time that a small molecule called ABT-737 can increase the effectiveness ...

An unexpected way to cause leukemia

Apr 07, 2008

Leukaemia – cancer of blood or bone marrow – is caused by mutations that allow defective blood cells to accumulate and displace healthy blood. To devise effective therapies it is crucial to know which mutations cause ...

Recommended for you

XenOPAT, mouse models for personalized cancer treatment

14 hours ago

On September 8th, the company XenOPAT SL, a spin-off of the Institute of Biomedical Research (IDIBELL) and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) was established with the aim of bringing the company the latest scientific ...

User comments