Discovery improves prospects of treating leukaemia

January 25th, 2009 - 3:25 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 25 (IANS) Cardiff University scientists are at the forefront of discoveries which could pave the way for more effective treatment of leukaemia, known to respond poorly to existing drugs. Chris Pepper and his multi-disciplinary team at the Cardiff School of Medicine have found that some patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) have high levels of a protein (called Rel A).

These people develop a more aggressive form of the disease, requiring a more intensive therapy to treat CLL - the most common kind of leukaemia in Britain.

The scientists also discovered that the amount of this protein in the patient’s leukaemia cells accurately predicts how he or she will respond to treatment.

Pepper, a haematologist explained: “This protein is providing new information about CLL patients which we believe will allow us to identify those who have more aggressive forms of this leukaemia. This is important because the timing and type of treatment can then be matched to the patients’ requirements.”

Additionally, Pepper’s team has shown that a new drug called LC-1 can block this Rel A protein, resulting in the targeted killing of the leukaemia cells.

Lab tests show the new drug is equally effective in treating the cells of patients that respond poorly to the current treatment, fludarabine, said a Cardiff release.

“We used our discoveries about the protein Rel A in CLL to predict that the drug LC-1 would have an effect on drug resistant cells. This turned out to be the case and the combination of LC-1 with fludarabine proved highly effective,” Pepper said.

We have now started a clinical trial here in Cardiff to test this new drug in patients and we will know later this year how effective it really is, he added.

These findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Clinical Cancer Research

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