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Leukemia Breakthrough


Last updated 10/22/2015 at 10:51am

San Diego scientists have found a breakthrough in treating leukemia. Yesterday, The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla announced the discovery of an antibody that can turn leukemia cells against each other. Researchers found that the antibody turned acute myeloid leukemia cells into “natural killer” cells that are part of the immune system’s rapid reaction force and can be effective against viruses and cancer. During lab tests, these cells eliminated about 15 percent of the surrounding acute myeloid leukemia cells in 24 hours. This discovery can lead to new therapies for leukemia. It was also found that the antibodies would not have to be modified, which would mitigate the side effects when compared to other medications.

"It's a totally new approach to cancer, and we're working to test it in human patients as soon as possible," said senior investigator Dr. Richard Lerner, a professor of immunochemistry at TSRI. If the strategy works, scientists say, the natural killer cells would eliminate all cancer cells in a body.

Even though these cells are only fratricidal (only work for similar cells), antibodies can be found to treat other types of cancer, like breast cancer.

The scientists’ study appears in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and there are now discussions with pharmaceutical companies to bring this therapy to the market after more studies are completed.

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