New therapeutic target for leukaemia identified

January 28th, 2010 - 2:52 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 28 (ANI): Scientists from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre and The University of Texas Medical School at Houston have identified a potential new therapeutic target for leukaemia.

They have found that apart from glucose, leukemia cells also rely on fatty acid metabolism to grow and to evade cell death.

Inhibiting fatty acid oxidation makes leukemia cells vulnerable to drugs that force them to commit suicide, they said.

According to co-senior author Dr Heinrich Taegtmeyer, professor in the University of Texas Medical School Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, if these initial results hold up, inhibitors of fat oxidation may become a new way to treat leukemia patients.

“These findings translate to a potentially transformational approach to controlling leukemia and cancer cell metabolism by therapeutically targeting fatty acid oxidation,” said co-senior author Dr Michael Andreeff, professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy.

“Cancer metabolism has attracted renewed, cutting-edge research interest.

“Here we have first identified a metabolic target and our first in vivo results are promising, but there is much more work that needs to be done,” Andreeff added.

In a series of lab experiments, the researchers demonstrated that etomoxir, a drug used to treat heart failure, inhibits the growth of leukemia cells in culture in a dose-dependent manner.

They also found that etomoxir sensitizes leukemia cells to drugs that cause apoptosis. The fatty acid synthase/lipase inhibitor orlistat also sensitized leukemia cells to programmed cell death.

Mouse model experiments showed that combining etomoxir with the apoptosis-inducing drug ABT-737 or with cytarabine, a frontline drug for acute myeloid leukemia, reduced the leukemia burden and increased median survival time by 33 percent and 67 percent respectively compared to control group mice.

The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. (ANI)

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