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Combination Therapy Can Treat Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) Better

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is deadly form of cancer in the white blood cells of blood. It affects 2 people per 100,000 and mostly middle-gaed men or children are at higher risks of getting this disease. This cancer originates from the soft and spongy central section of bones called bone marrow. All components of blood, namely, the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma are produced in the bone marrow. CML occurs when there is an abnormality in a chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome, caused by usage of high-dose radiation treatments or exposure to nuclear radiation.

Imatinib mesylate (IM) treatment is an effective method to treat CML. But doctors who have been applying this technique on CML patients have found that this treatment is effective only in its initial stages. The drug is found not potent enough to kill the malignant stem cells which are the root cause of origin and growth of this disease. These stem cells have the ability to remain latent and escape the effects of standard treatments. In this way, their presence even after the application of IM treatment, increases the chances of recurrence of this form of cancer.

Researchers at the Stem Cell and Leukemia Research at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, have discovered that a combination of drugs can more effectively treat CML. The results of their findings are published in the May 2010 issue of the journal Cancer Cell.

Knowledge Gained from the Research:

  • Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are a class of anti-cancer agents which have been found to be effective in treating many other forms of cancer.
  • The researchers of this study wanted to know how this drug would influence the treatment of CML.
  • It was chosen because of its ability to prevent the division of malignant cancer cells and kill the cancer cells which do not divide, but rather remain as a part of cancer tumour.
  • When HDACi was combined with IM and given to experimental CML mice, it was found that this combination effectively reduced more CML cells when compared to IM treatment alone.
  • There was also a drastic fall in the number of stem cells which earlier escaped standard treatments and caused recurrence of the disease.

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