Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow, tissue located in the middle of certain bones. This is where the majority of blood cells are created.
The illness starts when immature blood cells become cancerous, preventing sufficient amounts of red blood cells, platelets and healthy white blood cells from being formed. This thereby sparks a series of lethal symptoms that increase as benign cells become lesser in number.
The cancer spreads through the blood stream and lymph nodes. As it advances it can even reach the brain, the spinal chord and other parts of the body.
Although scientific advances have developed different treatments to fight this disease, it unfortunately continues to be one of the most difficult to treat. Patients on the treatment generally experience constant relapses because oftentimes the cells become resistant to medication.
A new study published in the National Academy of Sciences, however, recently gave new hope by revealing that there is a great possibility that the malignant cells could destroy themselves.
The research on leukemia cells…
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California have developed a new technique that could cause leukemia cells to transform into immune cells to destroy the cancer, which grows uncontrollably thereby complicating the disease.
The key to making this possible is a fairly rare type of human antibody. It activates receptors in marrow cells to induce maturation and then converts them into useful cells.
The antibodies are a type of protein that is formed naturally by the human body’s immune system. They work in conjunction with white blood cells to fight possible external invaders, be it to neutralize them or destroy them.
With this in mind the researchers are trying to develop a therapy including antibodies, which would convert leukemia cells in bone marrow into non-cancerous cells.
They were hoping that the antibodies would have the ability to activate immature cells to make them healthy and useful again in treating cells that were already damaged.
After years of investigation, however, they never expected that a group of these introduced antibodies could help cells to mature into very different varieties, like dendritic cells, which are keys to increasing the body’s immune response.
In order to understand such an important finding, the researchers added several antibodies into a human blood sample that was rich in dangerous leukemia cells and discovered that they could transform the dangerous cells into other cell varieties, which actually supported the immune system.
After giving the cells even more time to work, they began to mature and slowly began to resemble cells which are responsible for hunting down and destroying threats to the body, including viruses, bacteria and leukemia cells.
The NK cells, also known as “Natural Killers,” were shown to have the ability to affect even cancerous cells. They were able to destroy up to 15% of the leukemia cells in a sample after just 1 day.
Even though this sounds unbelievable, these groups of cells only killed the leukemia cells, and not those that create other types of cancers in the body.
With the study’s incredible results, the researchers hope that this therapy can be used to transform a wide variety of NK cancer cells so as to completely cure patients.
Head researcher Richard A. Lerner said, “This is a completely new focus for cancer, and we are working to try it out in human patients as soon as possible.”
He then added, “We’re discussing this with pharmaceutical companies to bring it to human beings after the appropriate preclinical toxicity studies.”
So to sum it up, this is a very advantageous therapy. These antibodies could be useful with little or no further modifications.
It is believed to significantly reduce the probability of side effects related to current treatment programs, being more tolerable than chemotherapy.