Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Australian researchers make breakthrough in rare blood cancer treatment

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South Australian researchers have made a breakthrough in overcoming drug resistance in patients with rare blood cancer.

In a study published on Monday, the team from the University of South Australia (UniSA) and SA Pathology’s Center for Cancer Biology said they had found a way to suppress a protein that boosted resistance to drugs used in treating Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) patients.

AML is a kind of rare cancer that affects blood and bone marrow that kills more than 70 per cent of patients within five years of diagnosis.

“Each year in Australia, around 900 people are diagnosed with AML, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow characterised by an overproduction of cancerous white blood cells called leukemic blasts.

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“These cells crowd out normal white blood cells, which then can’t do their usual infection-fighting work, thereby increasing the risk of infections, low oxygen levels and bleeding,” Stuart Pitson, a lead author of Monday’s study, said in a statement.

Patients initially respond to Venetoclax, a new treatment for AML, but over time cells grow resistant to it.

However, the research team discovered that modulating lipid metabolism in the body can inhibit a protein called Mcl-1 which facilitates drug resistance.

Pitson said the finding could revolutionise how AML is treated.

The team is now working to optimize drugs targeting the protein to take into clinical trials.

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“For most people with AML, the chances of long-term survival are no better now than they were last century. Now, we have a chance to remedy that.

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