A new antibody drug could help tackle treatment-resistant childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, according to scientists in Manchester, UK.
The scientists have found a protein that contributes to chemotherapy resistance in the disease.
They have also found an antibody drug that shows early promise in targeting the protein, they reported last week in the journal Haematologica.
The researchers identified the protein, 5T4, by analysing samples from child patients thought to be at high or low risk of relapse.
They found that the protein helps leukaemia stem cells migrate from blood vessels to the bone marrow during treatment.
The proposed treatment was tested in mice and found to be 'very effective.'
Researcher Professor Vaskar Saha said: 'Although this is early work, our findings suggest that leukaemic initiating cells that have 5T4 are better at entering sites in the body that will protect them from standard chemotherapy, causing drug resistance and relapse.
'By targeting 5T4 in mice, we have shown that we can selectively attack the treatment-resistant leukaemia cells.'
Dr Alasdair Rankin, from the charity Bloodwise, which backed the research, said: "Using targeted therapies – alone or in combination - that hone in on specific characteristics of the cancer cells, could eventually make therapies gentler and more effective.
'These early findings are promising, and have opened up the future possibility of a new targeted treatment for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.'
Source: Haematologica 17 May 2017
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