Researchers from the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada have found an innovative way to treat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) while preserving and regenerating the healthy red blood cells of the patient.
Production of healthy blood cells is crucial for leukaemia patients to prevent anaemia and fatal infections. However, the conventional treatment methods only target the cancer cells paying little or no attention to the preservation of healthy blood cells.
“The traditional methods focus only on killing the cancer cells, but we took a completely different approach. By considering the entire bone marrow as an ecosystem, we also focused on the environment in which the cancer cells live”, said the study director Mick Bhatia, a professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster University and study author Allison Boyd.
With nearly 21,380 cases of acute myeloid leukaemia in 2017 and 50% deaths, the new therapeutic approach may increase the survival rate.
For the study, Boyd and his team examined the bone marrow samples from 34 “genetically diverse” patients with AML. It was found that leukaemia suppresses the bone marrow adipocytes that store fat and disrupt the production and maturation of red blood cells.
Further, the administration of PPAR-gamma agonist, a drug commonly used to treat Type 2 Diabetes was found to restore these adipocytes in the bone marrow while repress the growth of cancer cells.
Thus, boosting the fat cells in the bone marrow regenerated the healthy blood cells while killing off the cancerous ones.
“This new therapeutic approach has the potential to be added to the existing treatments or replace others in the near future. It may prove beneficial for those waiting for bone marrow transplants by activating their own healthy cells” said Prof. Bhatia.