Aus researchers make leukaemia treatment breakthrough

Nov 22 2013, 11:27 IST
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SummaryResearchers hope the treatment will be available to patients within a year.

Australian scientists say they have discovered a ground-breaking technique for treating aggressive forms of leukaemia.

The medical researchers at Melbourne-based Peter MacCallum Cancer†Centre have found†a double-barrelled approach which would†hopefully†lead to long-term survival of those suffering from the blood cancer, according to a media report.

A mutant enzyme called JAK2 drives and feeds a virulent form of the disease that has proved resistant to therapy.

"Not only do they grow very quickly and the tumours spread more rapidly but they're often refractory to standard chemotherapies up front,"† Ricky Johnstone of†Peter MacCallum Centre said.

"These are things that are very difficult to treat because of how quickly they spread but, in addition, they cannot be treated by the common chemotherapy," he said.

However, the dual-pronged attack has already proved successful in completely curing this form of leukaemia in mice.

Johnstone said "If we think about a tumour cell as a tree and if we think about this JAK2 protein being the tree, what we want to do is target that tree at two points: we want to cut off the leaves with one drug and then we want to deplete the root system and, importantly, the tap-root at another level.

"We think that the best way to kill that tree and therefore the tumour cell would be this dual approach Ė remove the leaves, remove the roots and then completely diminish the survival and nourishment pathway for that tree and, therefore, kill the tumour cell."

Researchers hope the treatment will be available to patients within a year.

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