A drug that treats iron overload could improve treatment for patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), British researchers report.
The team at Imperial College London examined how leukaemia cells infiltrate bone marrow and reported that the drug deferoxamine can protect bone marrow areas, allowing blood stem cells to survive.
Studying mice and human samples, they discovered that certain areas in the bone marrow support blood stem cells and that when these are overtaken by leukaemia cells, the stem cells are lost and production of healthy blood is significantly reduced.
The team discovered that the specialised vascular regions of bone barrow that house stem cells (vascular niches) are particularly impacted in AML.
Deferoxamine could have a protective effect on these structures, allowing healthy blood stem cells to be rescued, they report.
Preservation of this vasculature should also improve the efficiency of chemotherapy, say the authors, whose findings are published in Cell Stem Cell.
Lead author, Dr Cristina Lo Celso said: “Since the drug is already approved for human use for a different condition, we already know that it is safe.
“We still need to test it in the context of leukaemia and chemotherapy, but because it is already in use we can progress to clinical trials much quicker than we could with a brand new drug.”
The researchers now hope to team up with clinicians to begin human trials of the drug for AML.
Source: Duarte D et al. Inhibition of endosteal vascular niche remodeling rescues hematopoietic stem cell loss in AML. Cell Stem Cell 21 December 2017; doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2017.11.006
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