New drug combo may help treat aggressive blood cancer

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Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive form of cancer that originates in the bone marrow, rapidly spreads to the blood, and can quickly cause death if not treated promptly.

Despite recent therapeutic advances, it continues to be linked to poor outcomes in the majority of patients with this disease.

In a study from VCU Massey Cancer Center, scientists found a new drug combination may help treat the disease.

Venetoclax is an oral medication that binds to and blocks the function of a cancer-driving protein called BCL2, and thereby helping to kill AML cells, while rendering them more sensitive to other anti-cancer agents.

Venetoclax has been approved for the treatment of certain patients with AML when combined with another anti-leukemic agent (5-azacytidine).

Unfortunately, AML cells often develop resistance to venetoclax, highlighting the need for new therapeutic strategies designed to overcome this problem.

In the study, the team determined that a class of drugs known as dual mTORC1/2 inhibitors in combination with venetoclax could strongly suppress the growth of a variety of human leukemic cell types, including cells taken from AML patients.

This combination substantially triggered AML cell death.

The new findings raise the possibility that pairing a dual mTORC1/2 inhibitor with venetoclax may represent a new and potentially effective treatment option for patients with AML.

The team believes these findings also raise the possibility that this therapeutic combination could be particularly effective against leukemia cells in which the AKT pathway may be highly active.

Prospective studies designed to test this hypothesis are currently underway.

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The study was conducted by Steven Grant et al and published in Clinical Cancer Research.

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