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Tracking down therapy-resistant leukemia cells

Date:
December 15, 2016
Source:
Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen - German Research Centre for Environmental Health
Summary:
Scientists have succeeded in finding a small population of inactive leukemia cells that is responsible for relapse of the disease. Now the way is paved for research into new therapies that prevent disease relapse by eliminating the remaining, so-called dormant leukemia cells.
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Dr. Irmela Jeremias from Helmholtz Zentrum München and her colleagues have succeeded in finding a small population of inactive leukemia cells that is responsible for relapse of the disease. Now the way is paved for research into new therapies that prevent disease relapse by eliminating the remaining, so-called dormant leukemia cells. The research results have now been published in the Cancer Cell journal.

Chemotherapy often fails in leukemia when resistant cells survive treatment and bring about a relapse of the disease (recurrence). New therapies are therefore needed to eliminate these cells. The team of scientists headed by Jeremias, head of the 'Apoptosis' research group in the Gene Vectors Research Unit (AGV) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, has now isolated and characterized therapy-resistant cells for the first time. "Previously the biological principles responsible for a relapse in leukemia were not fully understood," says Jeremias. "Our new approach is to isolate dormant cells, which gives us the first possibility of developing therapies that switch off these cells."

Isolated cells respond to drugs

"We have found a method to dissociate dormant leukemia cells from their surroundings, where they are safe from attacks by therapeutics," explains Sarah Ebinger, doctoral candidate in the AGV and the article's first author. With the help of modern genetic engineering and dyes that mark cell growth, the scientists isolated cells and identified a rare cell type that resembled cells triggering relapse. These cells were inactive and resistant to therapy.

"We then found out that these cells, once they have been dissolved out of their surroundings, are indeed susceptible to therapy and react well to therapeutics," adds Erbey Özdemir, doctoral candidate in the AGV. "This has brought us a small step closer to the global goal of preventing disease relapse in patients suffering leukemia," says Jeremias. "It might serve as basis for new therapies that destroy resistant leukemia cells before they induce relapse."


Story Source:

Materials provided by Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen - German Research Centre for Environmental Health. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sarah Ebinger, Erbey Ziya Özdemir, Christoph Ziegenhain, Sebastian Tiedt, Catarina Castro Alves, Michaela Grunert, Michael Dworzak, Christoph Lutz, Virginia A. Turati, Tariq Enver, Hans-Peter Horny, Karl Sotlar, Swati Parekh, Karsten Spiekermann, Wolfgang Hiddemann, Aloys Schepers, Bernhard Polzer, Stefan Kirsch, Martin Hoffmann, Bettina Knapp, Jan Hasenauer, Heike Pfeifer, Renate Panzer-Grümayer, Wolfgang Enard, Olivier Gires, Irmela Jeremias. Characterization of Rare, Dormant, and Therapy-Resistant Cells in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Cancer Cell, 2016; 30 (6): 849 DOI: 10.1016/j.ccell.2016.11.002

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen - German Research Centre for Environmental Health. "Tracking down therapy-resistant leukemia cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161215080837.htm>.
Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen - German Research Centre for Environmental Health. (2016, December 15). Tracking down therapy-resistant leukemia cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161215080837.htm
Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen - German Research Centre for Environmental Health. "Tracking down therapy-resistant leukemia cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161215080837.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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