Wed, 18 May 2022

CANBERRA, May 9 (Xinhua) -- South Australian researchers have made a breakthrough in overcoming drug resistance in patients with rare blood cancer.

In a study published on Monday, the team from the University of South Australia (UniSA) and SA Pathology's Center for Cancer Biology said they have found a way to suppress a protein that boosts resistance to drugs used to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients.

AML is a kind of rare cancer that affects blood and bone marrow that kills more than 70 percent of patients within five years of diagnosis.

"Each year in Australia, around 900 people are diagnosed with AML, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow characterized by an overproduction of cancerous white blood cells called leukaemic blasts," Stuart Pitson, a lead author of Monday's study, said in a statement.

"These cells crowd out normal white blood cells, which then can't do their usual infection-fighting work, thereby increasing the risk of infections, low oxygen levels and bleeding."

Patients initially respond to Venetoclax, a new treatment for AML, but over time cells grow resistant to it.

However, the research team discovered that modulating lipid metabolism in the body can inhibit a protein called Mcl-1 which facilitates drug resistance.

Pitson said the finding could revolutionize how AML is treated.

The team is now working to optimize drugs targeting the protein to take into clinical trials.

"For most people with AML, the chances of long-term survival are no better now than they were last century," SA Pathology hematologist David Ross said.

"Now, we have a chance to remedy that. New treatments that prevent Venetoclax resistance have the potential to prolong survival, or even increase the chances of a cure in a disease for which improved outcomes are desperately needed."

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