Scientists from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre found a new combination therapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that shows greater potency in a preclinical study than either drug used alone.
The research is published in Cancer Discovery and was conducted by Ricky Johnstone et al.
AML is an aggressive type of blood cancer. When a patient has AML, immature abnormal white blood cells accumulate in the bone marrow, preventing the production of normal blood cells.
In addition, these cancer cells are unable to fight infection themselves.
In one regularly occurring type of AML, one of the drivers of the disease is a specific type of genetic abnormality.
As a result of that genetic fusion, genes that should be off are now switched on and vice versa—leading to the development of leukemia.
Researchers have been looking at how to stop this from happening, as a way to develop new therapies against AML that are insensitive to conventional chemotherapy.
In this study, the team used a drug called a histone deacetylase inhibitor that dampens the cell’s dysregulated response and slows down the growth of the leukemia cells.
The drug caused one type of immune cells to produce a molecule called interferon, which has been known for decades to also have anti leukemic effects. It is also available as an FDA-approved drug.
Based on these results, the researchers designed a potent combination drug therapy consisting of both a histone deacetylase inhibitor and interferon.
This combination showed superior anti-leukemia effects to those seen using either drug alone.
The team hopes this can be translated into a new approach to treat AML.
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