Login Signup

New project to stop leukaemia cells 'hiding' from treatment

Staff post

New project to stop leukaemia cells 'hiding' from treatment

Scientists at Imperial College London hope to improve leukaemia treatment after being awarded a prestigious research grant by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Drs Cristina Lo Celso and Edwin Hawkins have received £250,000 for a three year project investigating how cancer cells use 'hiding places' in the body to avoid chemotherapy drugs. 

Each year as many as 300 children are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Nearly all respond well to initial treatment, but the cancer returns in one quarter of patients and is much harder to treat the second time around. The long term outlook for adults is much worse, with only 40% of patients responding to treatment. Patients relapse because current treatment is unable to kill every cancer cell inside the body.

Dr Lo Celso, at Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences, said: “We believe that some cancer cells hide in protective compartments inside the body while patients receive treatment. After treatment has finished they leave these hiding places and can again cause cancer. If we understand where the cancer cells hide, we will be able to develop better ways to treat patients and eliminate all cancer cells.”

The researchers will use high powered microscopes located in Imperial's Facility for Imaging by Light Microscopy (FILM) to detect fluorescent light inside cells. This technique will allow the team to look deep inside the bone marrow of mice in the laboratory and track leukaemia cells during treatment. They will be able to observe how cancer cells, which would otherwise be undetectable, survive.

Different compartments inside the bones affect how blood stem cells grow and function. Dr Lo Celso’s team believe that the compartments which regulate healthy blood stem cells are 'hijacked' and used by leukaemia cells. Understanding the similarities between stem cells and leukaemia cells will have a dramatic impact on the design of new drugs, enabling these hiding places to be targeted.

Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “Leukaemia occurs when the machinery that controls how blood cells grow and die breaks down. We now know that both normal blood cells and leukaemia cells are produced by a small number of stem cells that live inside compartments in our bone marrow. Understanding how these leukaemia cells hide from powerful anti-cancer drugs is vital to creating treatments for patients that will work faster and prevent the disease from returning."

Monday, 3 December, 2012

More from this author

A breakthrough in understanding of a rare form of blood cancer could lead to significant improvements in treatment for patients. Scientists from the University of Southampton announced their findings...
Over a third of children with leukaemia whose disease returns after treatment could benefit from a drug designed to treat colon, skin and lung cancer. Clinical trials are planned after scientists at...

Similar posts

Hi, my name is Alison and I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in April 2013. I was a busy mum and primary school teacher and had started to feel tired from around Jan. I had a chest...
In November 1998, just days after my 4th birthday, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). I underwent two years of chemotherapy at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital and three...

Post new comment  

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.