Breakthrough in leukaemia treatment; iron overload drug can improve chemotherapy

27 December 2017, 12:20 PM
Representative image
Representative image

A new research has shown that giving patients a drug currently used in the treatment of iron overload can improve chemotherapy for one type of leukaemia. 

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which is an aggressive cancer, stops the production of healthy blood cells for which chemotherapy is the standard treatment. 

The findings from Imperial College London showed that special regions of blood vessels where blood stem cells, that generate billions of new cells every day of our life, reside are the hardest hit by leukaemia. 

When leukaemia cells overtake these special regions of blood vessels the stem cells are lost and production of healthy blood is significantly reduced, causing anaemia, infection, and bleeding in patients further allowing the disease to progress and affecting the success of chemotherapy.

The research team tested a drug called deferoxamine which is used to treat iron overload which can happen for example when a person receives multiple blood transfusions. 

The study is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. 

Deferoxamine was found to have a protective effect on the blood vessels in AML patients allowing the rescue of healthy blood stem cells. The enhanced vessels also improved the efficiency of chemotherapy.

“Since the drug is already approved for human use for a different condition, we already know that it is safe,” said lead author Cristina Lo Celso from the varsity.

“We still need to test it in the context of leukaemia and chemotherapy, but because it is already in use we can progress to clinical trials much quicker than we could with a brand new drug,” Celso added.

For the study, the team filmed the invasion of leukaemia cells into bone marrow in mice, which allowed them to see details of the bone marrow, revealing phenomena happening deep inside the bone marrow. The researchers are now hoping to begin human trials of the drug for AML. 

(With Agency inputs)

First Published: Wednesday, December 27, 2017 12:05 PM
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