An Indian-origin researcher at Stanford University has found a method that can change leukemia cells to harmless immune cells known as macrophages.
Ravi Majeti, Assistant professor of medicine, Stanford University, collected leukemia cells from a patient for observation and was trying to keep the cells alive in a culture plate. Majeti said, "We were throwing everything at them to help them survive."
During the research, Majeti and post-doctoral scholar Scott McClellan found that some of the cancer cells in culture were changing shape and size into what looked like macrophages.
The research team said methods shown to have altered progenitor cells years ago in the mouse could be used to transform these human cancer cells into macrophages, which can engulf and digest cancer cells and pathogens. "So finding potential treatments is particularly exciting," Majeti added.
The researchers hope that once the cancer cells become immune cells, they will be neutralized and may assist in fighting the cancer.
The macrophage cells changed from cancer cells will already have chemical signals that will identify cancer cells, thus making the immune attack against the cancer.
Now the researchers next step is to find a drug that will prompt the same reaction to serve as the basis for a therapy for the leukemia.