A pill intended for leukemia treatment may soon make a big difference for patients suffering from a variety of cancers. These drugs worked so well against leukemia that during trials, patients taking placebo pills were switched over to the real drug!
Cancer cells produce an enzyme called p110. This enzyme suppresses immunity, making it hard for the body to fight back against disease. The drug works by blocking that enzyme so the body can fight back more efficiently.
It turns out that this pill could be effective against a wider range of cancers than previously thought. Through research in mice with a variety of cancers, survival rate was greatly increased. Mouse studies indicate that this could be an effective treatment against breast cancer by not only minimizing the spread of the disease, but also by improving survival rates after removal of breast tumors!
P110 inhibitors could quickly become part of cancer treatments, as the drugs are already being successfully used on cancer patients. It will be interesting to see if administration of this drug for other types of cancer will be as successful as animal trials. Read more about it here:
Bone marrow is a complex tissue that, until now, could only be studied in living animals. Recently, Harvard researchers created “bone marrow on a chip” by reproducing the structure and function of bone marrow. Past efforts involving combining cells on an artificial surface have failed, because bone marrow is extremely complex. So researchers turned to animals for help. By creating a framework of bone powder and implanting it under the skin of an animal, the animal’s body did the work for them and created an impressive bone and marrow structure!
The engineered bone marrow could help researchers assess potential side effects of cancer treatments, observe the effects of drugs to prevent radiation poisoning, and even generate blood cells. It may even be possible to grow human bone marrow in immune-deficient mice!
Researchers work with animals because they often give more accurate information than cell cultures and computer simulations alone. From vaccine development to cancer treatments to joint replacement surgery, animals have been- and continue to be- extremely important in the effort to save lives. And now, animals are helping researchers create better alternatives, which could ultimately reduce the number of animals needed in research without compromising research outcomes. Good news for everyone!
It’s been known for decades that the incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is 20 times higher in children with Down syndrome than in the general population. And now- thanks to mice- researchers know why!
People with Down syndrome have an extra copy of part or all of chromosome 21. And by working with mice that carry extra copies of genes that are found on chromosome 21, researchers have identified the link between Down syndrome and ALL. Long story short, this particular type of leukemia is caused by an excess of abnormal white blood cells that are supposed to fight infections but don’t work properly. These mice led researchers to the specific proteins involved in this process, and they found- and confirmed in human cell samples- that the gene responsible for spurring the creation of these abnormal cells was an extra gene on chromosome 21. Link: discovered.
While there currently aren’t any drugs that target this specific gene, researchers now know where to focus. Now that they know where the problem lies, they can work to develop drugs that could potentially reduce the chances of a child with Down syndrome developing leukemia! It’s also possible that ALL patients without Down syndrome could benefit from this research.
It’s not good news yet; there’s still work to be done. But I support the fight against pediatric cancer- and the mice do, too!
Researchers at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) in Montreal have identified a key gene (called Brg1) that regulates leukemia stem cells. What’s more- they’ve figured out a way to disarm it!
This isn’t an easy thing to figure out. Sometimes, when cancer cells are targeted, normal cells are also damaged because the genes involved in regulating cancer cells may also be essential in normal cell function. They need to know exactly what the gene does in order to figure out what they can- and can’t- do with it.
But how do they figure this out? You certainly wouldn’t want to try to shut down a gene in a human patient without fully understanding what you’re doing. This is a great example of the importance of animal-based research. Cell cultures can definitely tell you a lot, but when you want to find out how a treatment is going to affect an entire living system, animals are truly life-savers.
And based on animal and cell studies, it looks like normal blood cells don’t need Brg1 to function! More work is needed before moving into clinical trials, but this could definitely be life-changing. The cancer stem cells that Brg1 regulates are more resistant to treatments, and the ability to turn them off could make treating leukemia easier and also help prevent relapses without damaging normal cells!
Horses and rabbits can help improve outcomes for human patients receiving bone marrow transplants. Wait- horses and rabbits? Yes!
Bone marrow transplants involve harvesting stem cells from the bone marrow of a healthy person and transplanting them into a patient with certain cancers or blood disorders- leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease, to name a few. Harvesting stem cells from a relative usually has the best outcome, but that’s not always possible. A full sibling only has about a 25% chance of being a match, so most patients find an unrelated match through the bone marrow registry. (www.bethematch.org) Finding a way to improve the outcome for unrelated matches is always a goal in research- and this is where horses and rabbits come in!
Researchers inject human T-cells into a rabbit or a horse. Then, the animal’s immune system kills the T-cells and their bodies create antibodies. These antibodies are then removed and given to human patients- and they then kill the patient’s T-cells, reducing the risk of rejection!
Horse or rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) has been used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients as well as in the treatment of aplastic anemia. Talk about animals helping people!
While we rush around, doing our last-minute shopping, it’s easy to get lost in the rush. This time of year is about family and friends and being thankful for everything you’ve been blessed with. Regardless of what holiday you’re celebrating this season, take some time to think about what matters most to you.
As you finish your wrapping and cooking and cleaning, please also think about the people who aren’t as fortunate as you are today. There are families- right this very second- who are standing by a loved one and hoping that they won’t die tonight. A little girl in Pennsylvania is fighting a battle with leukemia- and losing. An infant girl in Washington is going to be taken off ECMO to see if her body can fight for itself. And some parents will be leaving the hospital to come home… without their child.
It’s hard to think about having to deal with any of these things. It would be really nice if everyone could be with their families and open presents and watch their kids light up with excitement- but that won’t happen for everyone.
Be thankful for your family, your health, and your friends- because you never know what tomorrow could bring. And when you hear about the families who feel like they have nothing to celebrate this holiday season, don’t stop listening to their stories- instead, DO something. Sign up to donate blood. Volunteer at a local shelter. Donate toys and crayons and coloring books to your local children’s hospital. Participate in a fundraising activity to raise awareness of that disease. Make a donation to research in that child’s honor. DO something!
While research has certainly given us countless medical advances over the last several decades, we still have a long way to go. Until everyone can be home for the holidays with their healthy, happy loved ones, we still have a long way to go.
Happy holidays- and I hope that you are able to find happiness, hope, and peace this holiday season.
A novel treatment proves successful in patients with INCURABLE cases of leukemia! 59 patients who had exhausted all other treatment options were treated with a new therapy at UPenn. Out of 32 adult patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), 15 responded to the treatment and 7 experienced complete remissions. All of the 5 first adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) experienced complete remissions!
But the most amazing results were seen in pediatric cancer patients! Out of 22 patients with ALL, 80% experienced complete remissions! And keep in mind- these were all patients whose cancer was completely resistant to all other types of chemotherapy and who would have died.
Here’s how it works: T-cells are collected from the patient and are then genetically modified so that they target tumor cells. These modified T-cells are then infused back into the patient, where they begin to do their jobs. Because the T-cells are made to target only the proteins expressed on cancer cells, normal cells are left alone. And these T-cells remain in the body, protecting patients from relapse! (Check out link below for details.)
Please take a minute and watch the videos in the below links- definitely worth your time! Amazing what research can do!
Photo from http://cancerlabtechperspective.blogspot.com
New information from research in Toronto could help improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants for patients suffering from leukemia (and other cancers and immune disorders). Studies in mice, which were confirmed with samples from humans, showed that stem cells from bone ends are better at regenerating blood cells and immune system cells than the stem cells located in the shafts of bones. Not only are these cells better at regenerating, but they also work more efficiently and for longer periods of time than cells from the middle of the bones.
If doctors are able to collect stem cells that are more efficient, bone marrow transplants could not only be improved, but may be able to be effective for more people. The next step is to investigate the best ways of retrieving these superior stem cells. It’s exciting research, and could prove to really make a difference in bone marrow transplant methods. Stay tuned!
This is incredible- researchers at the University of Ottawa have developed a therapy that can kill human blood cancer cells in the laboratory AND successfully eradicate leukemia in mice with few side effects.
Currently, “replicating viruses” are often used for treating leukemia. These are viruses that have been tailored to target cancer cells- but the problem is that the viruses will then replicate and cause viral infections.
UV light was used to transform replicating viruses into non-replicating particles that can still enter cancer cells, kill them, and stimulate a strong immune response from the body. This new therapy is very safe at high doses, worked well in the mouse model, and also killed leukemia cells in the laboratory in blood samples from human leukemia patients who had not responded to other treatments.
Normal blood cells were unharmed. In the mouse studies, 80% of the mice who underwent this treatment had higher survival rates, 60% were CURED, and all untreated died within 20 days.
Steps will now be taken to calculate dosages needed for human patients- and if this works, there may be real hope for leukemia patients who haven’t responded to treatment as well as patients who must face the debilitating side effects of current cancer therapies.
Have you had any personal experiences with side effects of leukemia therapies?