13 October 2017


British scientists have uncovered a key mechanism in acute myeloid leukaemia, demonstrating how diseased cells access extra energy.

The research at the University of East Anglia, have shown how cancer cells steal mitochondria from healthy bone marrow stromal cells.

The research was published yesterday as the lead item in the journal Blood.

The researchers found that the NOX-2 enzyme is responsible for the mitochondrial transfer by generating superoxide. The cancer cells use nanotubes to tunnel into their healthy neighbours and take the mitochondria, they found.

The findings suggest that NOX-2 inhibition could help tackle the problem, the researchers say.

Dr Stuart Rushworth from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said: 'It was not previously known what stimulates mitochondrial transfer in AML or any cancer, and determination of the controlling stimulus is an essential first step if this biological function is to be exploited therapeutically in the future.

'Our results provide a first in the study of cancer mitochondrial transfer mechanism. We have clearly shown that the cancer cell itself drives transfer by increasing oxidative stress in the neighbouring non-malignant donor cells.

'Moreover, mitochondria which move from the bone marrow stromal cells to the AML blasts are functionally active, showing that the AML blast is using this biological phenomenon to its metabolic advantage.'

Source: NADPH oxidase-2 derived superoxide drives mitochondrial transfer from bone marrow stromal cells to leukemic blasts Blood 5 October 2017; doi: 10.1182/blood-2017-03-772939


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