Potential seen for tailoring treatment for acute myeloid leukemia

December 8, 2018, University of Washington
An artist's conception of chemotherapy in a hospital infusion room. The image combines photography and photo enhancement. Credit: Alice C, Gray

Advances in rapid screening of leukemia cells for drug susceptibility and resistance are bringing scientists closer to patient-tailored treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Research on the responses of may reveal why some attempts to treat are not successful or why initially promising treatment results are not sustained.

AML is a serious disorder of certain blood-forming cells. In this disease, certain early precursor cells in the bone marrow that usually develop into white blood cells don't mature properly. They remain frozen as primitive cells called blasts, unable to further differentiate and mature. These can accumulate and cause low blood counts that reduce the ability to fight infections, and low platelet counts that cause risk of life threatening hemorrhage.

Leukemia stem cells—the progenitors for the immature, cancerous blood cells—propagate AML, and also play a role in the cancer returning after treatment. Cancer researchers are interested in how genes are expressed in this cell population, because this data may hold clues to resistance to standard therapies and answers to why some patients relapse.

A study presented at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Diego looked at the drug response patterns of stem cells and blast cells taken from individual patients diagnosed with . The information was gathered through high throughput screening, a state of the art method for quickly evaluating and testing many samples.

The researchers found that leukemia stem cells and blast cells diverged in their drug susceptibility patterns, and also that these patterns differed from patient to patient.

For example, blast cells s responded in the test to the drugs most commonly used to treat patients, but none were effective against leukemia stem cells. The researchers did find 12 drugs from eight classes that seemed to preferentially target leukemia stem cells, compared to blast cells. Many of them are not often used in patients with this type of cancer.

The multidisciplinary team on the project included stem cell biologists, hematologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, computer scientists, drug developers and others.

The senior researcher was hematologist Dr. Pamela Becker, professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine. She is also a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the UW Medicine Institute for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, and sees patients with blood disorders at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

In the laboratory study, the researchers compared the drug sensitivity of blast cell and stem cell populations taken from the same six . In doing so, they tested a custom panel of drugs, targeted agents and drug combinations on the cells, and did genetic analyses for 194 mutations. The panel included both FDA approved and investigational drugs.

The unique drug susceptibility patterns observed in leukemia stem cells and blast are leading the scientists to hope that patient-specific approaches could be developed against acute myeloid , with the goal of improving the outcomes for people with this form of blood cancer.

This study was abstract 180 at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

Explore further: Researchers design delivery system to guide drugs directly to cancer cells 'hiding' in bone marrow

Related Stories

Researchers design delivery system to guide drugs directly to cancer cells 'hiding' in bone marrow

October 30, 2018
Researchers led by a UCLA bioengineer have developed a therapy—based on two types of cells joined into a single unit—that could help strengthen existing treatments for acute myeloid leukemia. One of the cells is a blood ...

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells

November 29, 2018
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ. Rather, the location of DNA mutations is relevant. Using ...

For first time in 40 years, cure for acute leukemia within reach

August 24, 2018
Acute myeloid leukemia is one of the most aggressive cancers. While other cancers have benefitted from new treatments, there has been no encouraging news for most leukemia patients for the past 40 years. Until now.

Rare form of leukemia found to originate in stem cells

February 13, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers working out of the University of Toronto has found that one type of rare leukemia appears to get its start in stem cells. In their paper published in the journal Nature, ...

Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment

October 16, 2017
Killing cancer cells indirectly by powering up fat cells in the bone marrow could help acute myeloid leukemia patients, according to a new study from McMaster University.

As leukemia evolves, stem cells hold keys to newer therapies

August 30, 2016
A recent study by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers proves why leukemia is so difficult to treat and suggests that the current approach to drug development should be adjusted to target a broader range of ...

Recommended for you

Potential seen for tailoring treatment for acute myeloid leukemia

December 8, 2018
Advances in rapid screening of leukemia cells for drug susceptibility and resistance are bringing scientists closer to patient-tailored treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Study may offer doctors a more effective way to treat neuroblastoma

December 7, 2018
A very large team of researchers, mostly from multiple institutions across Germany, has found what might be a better way to treat patients with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer. In their paper published in the journal Science, ...

Inflammatory bowel disease linked to prostate cancer

December 7, 2018
Men with inflammatory bowel disease have four to five times higher risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, reports a 20-year study from Northwestern Medicine.

'Chemo brain' caused by malfunction in three types of brain cells, study finds

December 6, 2018
More than half of cancer survivors suffer from cognitive impairment from chemotherapy that lingers for months or years after the cancer is gone. In a new study explaining the cellular mechanisms behind this condition, scientists ...

Scientists develop new technology for profiling unique genetic makeup of myeloma tumor cells

December 6, 2018
Cancer arises when cells lose control. Deciphering the "blueprint" of cancer cells—outlining how cancer cells hijack specific pathways for uncontrolled proliferation—will lead to more efficient ways to fight it. Joint ...

Putting the brakes on tumor stealth

December 6, 2018
New research undertaken at Monash University has shed new light on how some cancers are able to escape our immune system.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.