Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Adelaide researchers are zeroing in on a promising new approach to killing off cancer cells in patients with leukaemia.

In a study led by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and the University of Adelaide's Centre for Personalised Cancer Medicine, researchers have found that cancer cells decide whether to live or die after a short period of intense exposure to targeted therapy, opposing the current requirement for continuous treatment.

The researchers say this study presents a new treatment strategy which will translate to a significant reduction in side effects for patients. The results have been published online ahead of print in the journal Leukemia.

"This discovery is paradigm shifting," says Professor Deborah White, Director, Cancer Research with SAHMRI and University of Adelaide professor. "Our findings are not just applicable to chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) therapy, but to all targeted cancer treatments.

"In our research, we're looking for methods that will result in the cancer cell killing itself. This would provide an improved treatment and reduce the risk of cancer relapse."

As a consequence of this finding, Professor White and colleagues identified a new target in resistant and persistent disease. They show that by blocking a common protein they can more effectively cause death in leukaemia cells.

Professor White and her research team, including University of Adelaide PhD student Lisa Schafranek, have been investigating the role of a common protein known as STAT5.

"The activity of STAT5 appears to be a critical determinant of the decision for cancer cells to live or die," says Miss Schafranek, a Leukaemia Foundation of Australia PhD scholar.

"Our research has found that by blocking STAT5 in conjunction with exposure to a regular anti-cancer treatment, we were able to more effectively target the leukaemia cells. We now also better understand the timing required for the combined treatment to be effective."

The full paper can be found online at the journal's website.

Media contacts:
Professor Deborah White: phone +61 8 8128 4302, mob 0401 138 305 [email protected]

David Ellis, Media Officer, University of Adelaide: phone: +61 8 8313 5414, mob 0421 612 762 [email protected]

Bridgette Whittle, SAHMRI: phone +61 8 8128 4153, mob 0434 072 866 [email protected]

Keywords

leukaemia, therapy, University of Adelaide, research, cancer, study, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, SAHMRI, chronic myeloid, CML, treatment, STAT5,

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