Page last updated at 00:16 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Leukaemia cell 'breakthrough' offers treatment hope

Leukaemia cells
T-ALL is a form of childhood leukaemia

Scientists believe they have made an important breakthrough in attempts to treat a form of childhood leukaemia.

In mice tests, Australian researchers found that a cell, which plays a key role in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, survives radiotherapy.

The Melbourne University team believes targeting this cell may help to stop this disease returning, but they warned much more research was needed.

UK experts said the findings may eventually lead to better care.

T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a rare form of leukaemia which is most common in older children and adolescents, although adults can also be affected.

About a fifth of children suffer relapses after radiation therapy.

In the tests, the team found that 99% of cells in the thymus, a small organ in the upper chest which helps protect people from infections and as a result plays a key role in leukaemia, were killed by radiation.

Resistance

But the Lmo2 gene was able to recover because of its stem-cell like properties, suggesting it could be responsible for the disease, the Science journal reported.

Lead researcher Dr Matthew McCormack said: "The cellular origins of this leukaemia are not well understood.

"Our discovery that these cells are similar to normal stem cells explains why they are capable of surviving for long periods.

"It also explains why they are remarkably resistant to treatment."

The team is now planning to focus on novel treatment capable of killing these cells, but warns it is still many years away from clinical trials.

Ken Campbell, of Leukaemia Research, said: "This is an interesting piece of research that increases our understanding of this small sub-set of childhood leukaemia patients.

"However, while the research could reduce relapse rates in the future for this group, it is likely that current treatment regimes will continue to be used."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Child leukaemia 'genes' revealed
16 Aug 09 |  Health
How infection may spark leukaemia
01 Apr 09 |  Health
Leukaemia cell culprit discovered
17 Jan 08 |  Health
Playgroups 'cut leukaemia risk'
28 Apr 08 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific