Researchers from the Bar-Ilan University in Israel may have come up with a new form of treatment for Leukemia. The treatment relates to hematologic cancers and was developed by Prof. Mira Barda-Saad and a research team from the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan.
The Leukemia treatment involves attacking the cytoskeletal protein, called WASp, which has a unique structural condition in active hematologic cancer cells.
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The researchers released their study’s results in a report published in Nature.com.
According to the National Cancer Institute, hematologic cancer is a cancer that begins in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, or in the cells of the immune system. Examples of hematologic cancer are leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Also called blood cancer.
The Mayo Clinic explains that Leukemia is cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Many types of leukemia exist. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children. Other forms of leukemia occur mostly in adults.
Leukemia usually involves the white blood cells. Your white blood cells are potent infection fighters — they normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them. But in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces an excessive amount of abnormal white blood cells, which don’t function properly.
The new study’s authors explain that the current treatments for hematopoietic malignancies are still based mainly on chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and are usually followed by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in cases of leukemia. These treatments are nonspecific and come with severe side effects including sensitivity to infections, hair loss, chronic fatigue, heart disorders, infertility, and secondary cancers.
Immune-based therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies, bispecific antibodies, immune checkpoint inhibitors, immunomodulators, and adoptive cell transfer (ACT), have shown significant clinical benefits, although many patients still fail to respond to these treatments due to primary, adaptive, and acquired resistance. In the case of checkpoint inhibitors, treatment with Nivolumab (anti-PD-1) showed promising clinical results for Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients8 but low complete response rates for NHL patients.
So, what does this new treatment do?
Well, cells depend on actin, a protein that plays an important role in the cytoskeleton. Malignant cancer cells from Leukemia need actin to be active, reproduce, migrate and attack healthy cells. The WASp protein controls actin’s activity and structure.
The Bar-Ilan team focused on destroying WASp in malignant cells and demonstrated that the degradation of WASp assists in inhibiting and destroying these malignant cells.
Prof. Barda-Saad said, “For many years during my doctoral and post-doctoral studies at the Weizmann Institute, and later on with the NIH in Maryland in the US, I concentrated on basic research. Several cases of cancer discovered in my family caused me to adopt an applicative approach – how could I take the primary knowledge and use it to develop a therapeutic strategy.”
“The process is lengthy and drawn out because it demands a deep understanding of how cells work and how cancer cells are different from normal cells,” she added, “what are their weak points that can be exploited? In this research we used the vast knowledge we acquired in order to design an applicative strategy.”