Natural killer cells are part of the body's immune system and help protect the body against infection and some cancers, particularly leukemia. A new study shows promising treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia patients may lie in artificially stimulating natural killer cells from a patient's family member. Researchers say this method could help treat patients with the highly fatal cancer of the bone marrow that has become resistant to standard treatment with chemotherapy.
Patients with AML do not have killer cells able to effectively fight the cancer cells. For the study researchers compared 19 patients with AML to a control group of eight patients with renal cancer. The groups received different types of chemotherapy drugs, and both groups received a protein substance that makes infection-fighting cells multiply and mature. This substance artificially stimulated the natural killer cells obtained from a patient's family member and infused into the patient.
The infused natural killer cells expanded in the AML patients with the ability to fight tumors, but there were no notable responses in the patients with renal cancer. Researchers believe the chemotherapy combination of cyclophosphamide and fludarabine allowed for the expansion of infused natural killer cells. These donated cells thrived in some patients for more than 28 days, and five of the 19 patients achieved remission. However researchers say more research needs to be done in order to broaden the treatment capabilities of AML and give more hope for patients .