Pakistani and UK researchers make discovery on treatment for blood cancer

KARACHI: A recent study published in the journal Neoplasia by professors at the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) at Aga Khan University (AKU) and Cardiff University found a series of chemical cascade reactions or a A signaling pathway which, when targeted, can kill or suppress the growth of resistant leukemia cancer cells.

According to a press release, nearly one in three people living with an incurable form of blood cancer can now hope for the development of new therapies for their disease.

Leukemia is one of the three main types of blood cancer. While most cases of leukemia, including a disease subtype, Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph + ALL), were treatable, nearly a third of patients with ALL Ph + had become untreatable due to developing resistance to current treatments.

Until now, the mechanism of this type of resistance had remained unknown.

The cells in our body communicate using chemical signals. These chemical signals, which were proteins or other molecules, were intended to facilitate different functions of cells. These signals usually stop after reaching their goal. If they don’t stop, as in some cases, they can cause serious health problems like cancer.

“Our study detected a signaling pathway that is activated and does not turn off in treatment-resistant Ph + ALL,” said Dr Afsar Mian, assistant professor at CRM.

“Blocking this pathway will prevent one protein from activating another protein, thereby preventing the development of resistance in cancer cells and ultimately their growth and spread.”

Over the course of his career, Dr Mian has studied a number of signaling pathways and his previous work and experiences led him to partner with a leading researcher in the field, Professor Oliver Ottmann of the University. from Cardiff, UK, to study the AKT / mTOR pathway.

In this study, the researchers used cell lines from a child and an adult with Ph + ALL. Drug resistance was induced in the child sample when the adult sample was already resistant to treatment.

In both cases, they discovered that the AKT / mTOR pathway was responsible for promoting drug resistance and noticed how a specific chemical compound acted as a “brake” on the pathway’s function, stopping cell growth. cancerous.

“The first step in discovering a new cancer drug is to know the mechanisms underlying the development, progression and resistance of a specific cancer,” said Dr Mian. “We now hope that our research will help us develop more effective and innovative targeted treatments. “

CRM stem cell researchers are already developing new therapies for Ph + ALL.

Contributors to the study included Professor El Nasir Lalani, Founding Director of CRM and the Khatija and Mohan Manji Dhrolia Chair in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and Usva Zafar and Syed Muhammad Areeb Ahmed, Research Associates at CRM.

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