Bolstering Fat Cells Offers Potential New Leukemia Treatment

Source: McMaster University

Summary: A new study found that boosting fat cells in the bone marrow can kill cancerous leukemia cells and help acute myeloid leukemia patients.

Researchers at McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, McMaster University, found that powering up the adipocytes (fat cells) in bone marrow suppress the cancerous leukemia cells and at the same time surprisingly induced the regeneration of healthy blood cells. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) patients suffer from anemia as a failure of healthy blood production is observed. Production of healthy RBC is very important in AML patients but it is overlooked in conventional treatments as focus on killing the leukemia cells alone. The findings were published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

Powering Adipocytes can kills cancerous cells

Fat cells (white circles) in healthy human bone marrow, left, compared to bone marrow in a patient with leukemia, right. Credit: McMaster University

This study was conducted on leukemia patients over the past three and half years which lead to the collection of bone marrow samples. A common drug used in the treatment of diabetes which induces fact cells in the bone marrow was used to foster RBC production and suppress leukemic disease. The fact that one cell type in one tissue can be targeted by using an existing drug is the most exciting thing in this research. These findings can open up for new potential therapeutic approaches and may be very helpful for those people who are waiting for bone marrow transplants.

Allison Boyd, said, “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; These traditional approaches have not delivered enough new therapeutic options for patients. The standard-of-care for this disease hasn’t changed in several decades.”

More Information: Allison L. Boyd et al, “Acute myeloid leukaemia disrupts endogenous myelo-erythropoiesis by compromising the adipocyte bone marrow niche”, Nature Cell Biology (2017).

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