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Fat Cells Offer Potential for Leukemia Treatment

Published: 2017-10-16 |

Author: Tina Depko |

Source: McMaster University

Researchers with the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute found that boosting adipocytes, or fat cells, located in the bone marrow suppressed cancerous leukemia cells but----in a surprise to the research team---induced the regeneration of healthy blood cells at the same time.

The production of healthy red blood cells is critical for those with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but is sometimes overlooked as conventional treatments focus on killing the leukemia cells alone. Patients with this disease suffer from anemia and infection due to failure of healthy blood production, all of which are leading causes of hospitalization and death from the disease. The study was published today in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

"Our approach represents a different way of looking at leukemia and considers the entire bone marrow as an ecosystem, rather than the traditional approach of studying and trying to directly kill the diseased cells themselves," said Allison Boyd, postdoctoral fellow with the research institute and first author of the study.

The McMaster-led study was conducted over the past three and half years and started from observations of leukemia patients. This led to the collection of bone marrow samples from larger cohorts of patients with Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, as well as those from Western University and Hamilton Health Sciences, for the next steps of investigation. This included detailed study and imaging of individual leukemia cells compared to healthy cells residing in the bone marrow, which revealed the effects of targeting fat cells.

A drug commonly used to moderate diabetes that includes fall cell production in the bone marrow was used and was found to help foster red blood cell production as well as suppress leukemia disease.

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