Chemotherapy often fails in leukemia when resistant cells survive
treatment and bring about a relapse of the disease (recurrence). New
therapies are therefore needed to eliminate these cells.
A small population of inactive leukemia cells
that is responsible for relapse of the disease has been identified by Dr. Irmela Jeremias from Helmholtz Zentrum München and her colleagues. Now the way is paved
for research into new therapies that prevent disease relapse by
eliminating the remaining, so-called dormant leukemia cells.
‘A small population of inactive leukemia cells that is responsible for relapse of the disease has been identified by researchers.’
research results have now been published in the Cancer Cell
The team of
scientists headed by Jeremias, head of the 'Apoptosis' research group in
the Gene Vectors Research Unit (AGV) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München,
has now isolated and characterized therapy-resistant cells for the first
time. "Previously the biological principles responsible for a relapse
in leukemia were not fully understood," says Jeremias. "Our new
approach is to isolate dormant cells, which gives us the first
possibility of developing therapies that switch off these cells."
Isolated cells respond to drugs
"We have found a method to dissociate dormant leukemia cells from
their surroundings, where they are safe from attacks by therapeutics,"
explains Sarah Ebinger, doctoral candidate in the AGV and the article's
first author. With the help of modern genetic engineering and dyes that
mark cell growth, the scientists isolated cells and identified a rare
cell type that resembled cells triggering relapse. These cells were
inactive and resistant to therapy.
"We then found out that these cells,
once they have been dissolved out of their surroundings, are indeed
susceptible to therapy and react well to therapeutics," adds Erbey
Özdemir, doctoral candidate in the AGV. "This has brought us a small
step closer to the global goal of preventing disease relapse in patients
suffering leukemia," says Jeremias. "It might serve as basis for new
therapies that destroy resistant leukemia cells before they induce