A project which aims to make laboratory-grown leukaemia cells change form and then be used to prime a patient’s own immune system to kill off malignant cells has begun in Edinburgh. If successful, the study could give clinicians a way of destroying residual leukaemic cells which are undetectable by microscope. The findings could be helpful in the treatment of acute myeloblastic leukaemia (AML), one of the most common forms of leukaemia in adults.
Although about 70% of patients with AML achieve complete remission of the disease after chemotherapy treatment, around half of the younger patients and the majority of elderly patients will ultimately relapse and die as a consequence of the disease. Three years survival rates are about 40% in younger patients and 10% in older patients.
This study, based at the John Hughes Bennett Laboratories at the University of Edinburgh, is led by haematologist Dr Marc Turner, who is Clinical Director of the Edinburgh and SE Scotland Blood Transfusion Centre.Dr Turner explained: “Relapse after initial successful chemotherapy is caused by residual leukaemic cells which are below a level which can be detected by microscope. Sometimes, they can cause the disease to restart, and it is much harder to treat the second time around. Methods of eliminating this minimal residual disease, such as bone marrow transplantation, can be successful but this form of treatment is only suitable for younger patients who are able to withstand the side effects of the treatment.”
Linda Menzies | alfa
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