A combination of Zileuton and Gleevec could be a potent treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), researchers have revealed.
Dr, Shaoguang Li, The Jackson Laboratory Adjunct Professor, led a team of researchers who identified a gene, called Alox5, involved with the inflammatory response that could hold the key to treating or even preventing CML.
The researchers also showed that an asthma medication for human patients was an effective treatment for CML in mice, reports Nature magazine.
Alox5 processes essential fatty acids to leukotrienes, which are important agents in the inflammatory response.
However, the researchers believe that Alox5 has a more sinister side-it is vital to the development and maintenance of cancer stem cells.
They say that cancer stem cells must be targeted for effective treatment of many cancers, but direct evidence is still lacking.
In the new study, the researchers found that CML did not develop in mice without Alox5 because of impaired function of leukemia stem cells.
Furthermore, Alox5 deficiency did not affect normal stem cell function, providing the first clear differentiation between normal and cancer stem cells.
The researchers also treated mice with CML with Zileuton- an asthma medication that inhibits the Alox5 inflammation pathway, as well imatinib-commonly known as Gleevec, the most effective current leukemia medication.
They found that imatinib effectively treated CML, but Zileuton was more effective. The two drugs combined provided an even better therapeutic effect.
The researchers are now seeking patent protection on the novel approach to treat CML that Li and colleagues have demonstrated.
The findings reveal how leukaemia stem cells are distinct from normal stem cells and how they can be targeted in cancer therapies.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.