A new study has shown that ABT-737, an experimental compound developed by Abbott Laboratories, enhances the efficacy of drugs used for treating Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer.
"When used in combination with common drugs administered in ALL therapy, ABT-737 has the ability to enhance the combined toxicity of these drugs against the leukaemia cells with minimal effects on the normal cells of the body," said Dr Richard Lock, Head of the Leukaemia Biology Program at the Children's Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research, Sydney.
Improvements that have occurred in the primary therapy for ALL over the years have increased the cure rate to approximately 80 per cent, but still the majority of the 20 per cent patients who relapse die, says an article published in the journal Blood.
The new findings provide new hope for childhood cancer sufferers.
These findings are the result of a study in which the researchers tested the effects of ABT-737 in combination with three common chemotherapeutic agents— L-Asparaginase, vincristine and dexamethasone—on a number of ALL cell lines under conditions that were considered clinically relevant for the disease.
The researchers say that resistance to common therapeutic drugs is associated with poor long-term outcomes in leukaemia patients.
ABT-737, developed by Abbott Laboratories, acts by inhibiting the Bcl-2 family of proteins. These proteins are expressed in ALL, and inhibit the mechanisms responsible for destroying leukaemia cells. High levels of expression of Bcl-2 is linked with chemo-resistance in a variety of cancers.
"There is a critical need for new drugs with novel mechanisms of action that might improve the outcome for relapsed ALL patients," said Dr Lock.