In what can be called as one of the most noble medical feat, scientists have developed a new drug that can help treat one of the most dangerous form of blood cancer.
The researchers from the University of Bradford, UK have found that the drug could be used to treat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). The drug - HXR9 helps prevent cancer cells from sidestepping apoptosis - the process that causes unhealthy and damaged cells to die.
According to the research, published in the journal Oncotarget, the drug targets a particular family of genes, called HOX genes, which are involved in controlling the rapid growth of cells. In adults these are switched off but in cancer cells they can be turned back on. This helps to give the cancer cells the ability to continuously grow and divide by circumventing the normal mechanisms that trigger apoptosis.
Researchers analysed gene expression data from 269 AML patients and found an association between the activity of a group of HOX genes and the patient survival rate.
They then tested HXR9 on cancerous cells taken from patients suffering from AML and found it caused the cancer cells to undergo a process known as necroptosis.
Necroptosis causes the cells to explode and spew their contents into the bloodstream rather than simply digesting themselves as normally occurs in apoptosis.
This increases the likelihood that there will be a subsequent immune reaction against the cancer cells, according to Morgan.
The researchers found that when they combined HXR9 with another drug, a protein kinase C inhibitor called Ro31, it enhanced the reduction in cancer growth even further.
"It could well be used in combination treatments but the initial trials will be as a single therapy," said Richard Morgan, from the University of Bradford.
Here are few facts about blood cancer or leukemia that you need to know. Take a look.
- Leukaemia is cancer of blood-forming tissues.
- There are different types of blood cancer - acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
- Slow-growing types of leukaemia don't have symptoms.
- Major symptoms of rapidly growing types of leukaemia are fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections and easy bleeding or bruising.