ABOVE: Leukemic regenerating cells, rather than leukemia stem cells, may be responsible for relapses after chemotherapy.


The paper

A.L. Boyd et al., “Identification of chemotherapy-induced leukemic-regenerating cells reveals a transient vulnerability of human AML recurrence,” Cancer Cell, 34:P483–98.e5, 2018.

Cancer researchers have long supposed that relapses of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) arise from a population of leukemia stem cells (LSC) that were dormant and therefore likely protected from chemotherapies that target dividing cells.

But when Mickie Bhatia of McMaster University in Canada and colleagues analyzed cancer cell populations from patient samples as well as those obtained from AML cells grafted into mice, they found that LSCs were depleted during chemotherapy. “By kinetically profiling the cells, we got a better impression of what was being killed during the chemotherapy, but also how it came back,” says Bhatia.

His team then...

“Maybe there’s a short window after induction [of] chemotherapy, where one could come in with a very specific therapy directed against this small population of leukemia regenerating cells,” says David Sykes, who studies AML at Massachusetts General Hospital and was not involved with this research. Sykes says the chances of finding similar target cell populations in other cancers is high.

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