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Researchers discover new leukemia approach

Around 6,200 Canadians will be diagnosed with leukemia this year. For these individuals, healthy blood production is especially critical, but is often impaired. Without it, they can face anemia and infection. That’s why the recent discovery by CCS-funded researcher Dr Mick Bhatia and his team is such promising news.

Dr Bhatia, who is based at McMaster University, learned that a drug typically used for diabetes promotes fat cell production in the bone marrow, which suppresses cancerous cells in people with acute myeloid leukemia. He and his team also found that the increase in fat cells helped to boost the production of healthy blood cells.

“The focus of chemotherapy and existing standard-of-care is on killing cancer cells but instead we took a completely different approach, which changes the environment the cancer cells live in,” said Dr Bhatia. “This not only suppressed the ‘bad’ cancer cells, but also bolstered the ‘good’ healthy cells allowing them to regenerate in the new drug-induced environment.”

The drug could help prevent anemia and infection, which could make treatment more effective or improve outcomes for those with leukemia.

This discovery has the potential to become a new therapeutic approach that can either be added to existing treatments or even replace others in the near future.

“We’re thrilled that we could fund Dr Bhatia and his team on this exciting project,” says Lynne Hudson, president and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society. “The double-duty treatment they have discovered could lead to a whole new approach to treating leukemia.”

The researchers are now looking to move this research discovery forward into clinical trials on humans. Help us fund more innovative research and clinical trials by visiting cancer.ca/donate.