Researchers from the University of Adelaide's Centre for Personalised Cancer Medicine and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) have established a new, short-term treatment strategy for leukaemia.
They have found that cancer cells decide whether to live or die after a short period of intense exposure to targeted therapy, against the current requirement for long, continuous treatments.
It's a discovery that could significantly reduce side effects in patients. Director of Cancer Research at SAHMRI, Professor Deborah White, said the discovery is "paradigm shifting."
"In our research, we're looking for methods that will result in the cancer cell killing itself. This would provide an improved treatment and reduce the risk of cancer relapse. Our findings are not just applicable to chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) therapy, but to all targeted cancer treatments," Professor White said.
University of Adelaide PhD student and research team member Lisa Schafranek has been studying the effects of blocking a common protein known as STAT5.
"The activity of STAT5 appears to be a critical determinant of the decision for cancel cells to live or die. Our research has found that by blocking STAT5 in conjunction with exposure to a regular anti-cancer treatment, we were able to more effectively target the leukaemia cells. We also better understand the timing required for the combined treatment to be effective," Schafranek said.
The team's findings have been published in the journal Leukemia.