ACRF funded scientist delivers a new way to hit leukemia

An Australian researcher funded by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) is part of the team which has developed a new approach to the treatment of acute leukemia.

The antibody used in the new research was first created by ACRF funded Professor Angel Lopez now at the Centre for Cancer Biology in Adelaide, South Australia.

The research targets myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the most aggressive forms of leukemia.

Quoted in the July 2 issue of prominent research journal, Stem Cell, Associate Professor Richard Lock, Head of the Leukemia Biology Program at Children’s Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research (CCIA) and the University of New South Wales – who have also received major funding from ACRF – said the findings were an exciting development towards finding more effective treatments for this rare but deadly disease.

“There are several kinds of leukemia, depending on which blood cell becomes cancerous, but acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most aggressive, especially in adults, with poor survival rates despite the many types of treatments we have,” explains A/Professor Lock.

“We know there are a small number of cells called ‘cancer initiating cells’ (also referred to as leukemia stem cells) that are relatively resistant to conventional chemotherapy and that these cancer initiating cells can repopulate an entire cancer causing the patient to relapse with disease,” A/Professor Lock said.

“It is believed this is a major reason we struggle to cure most AML, and that improving the outlook for patients with AML will require elimination of these cancer-initiating cells.

What are the outcomes and expected impact of the research?

“Our research found a new antibody, manufactured by CSL Limited, helped target a special protein (called CD123) that appears more abundantly on cancer initiating cells in AML than healthy cells, blocking the protein’s function, and inhibiting the growth and survival of AML cells.

The exciting thing about this antibody is that it seems to preferentially target these cancer initiating cells compared to normal blood cells, which, if we’re right, will mean very few long term side effects of treatment. In the future it may be useful in other leukemia’s,” says A/Professor Lock, author on the paper.

“This is a form of leukemia where the outcomes of treatment haven’t improved much in 20-30 years. This research delivers a new line of targeted therapy for the treatment of AML,” he said.

Professor Richard Lock “We need a leap forward and we’re hoping this may be it,” argues A/Professor Lock.

“The antibody used in the research, was first created by Professor Angel Lopez now at the Centre for Cancer Biology in Adelaide, South Australia and the research was undertaken in collaboration with both Professor Lopez and Professor John Dick at the University Health Network, University of Toronto. The antibody is being developed further in conjunction with CSL Limited in Melbourne,” he said.

A CD123-targeting antibody is currently in Phase I clinical trial.

For further information:

Maggie Lanham


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