New hope for reduced longterm side-effects in children after leukemia treatment

October 17, 2022

New hope for reduced longterm side-effects in children after leukemia treatmentBy using drugs currently used to treat other diseases, scientists hope they will help children with leukemia suffer fewer long-term aftereffects from their treatment. But the chemotherapy treatment, lasting several years, is gruelling and patients can suffer from serious long-term side-effects. They wanted to find out whether these drugs could enhance the effect of the chemotherapy used to treat leukemia. Cancer cells mutate to avoid dyingThe aim of the cancer treatment is to stop the cancer cells dividing, or even better, destroy them. The scientists studied how cancer cells send signals to one anotherRichartz has therefore studied the communication process in cancer cells which allows them to trigger autophagy.

New hope for reduced longterm side-effects in children after leukemia treatment

By using drugs currently used to treat other diseases, scientists hope they will help children with leukemia suffer fewer long-term aftereffects from their treatment.

Researcher Nina Richartz has tested several drugs, amongst them an agent used to treat paracetamol overdose and an anti-inflammatory medicine, to see if they could enhance the effect of the chemotherapy used to treat leukemia. (Photo: Cecilie Bakken Høstmark, UiO)

The most common type of cancer occurring in children and young people today is acute lymphocytic leukemia. The prognosis for recovery is good. Nine out of ten young people with this diagnosis survive. But the chemotherapy treatment, lasting several years, is gruelling and patients can suffer from serious long-term side-effects.

– Many suffer from fatigue and they may develop problems with memory and learning. Some also suffer from heart failure and hormonal disorders. For this reason, we are trying to find other ways of fighting this type of cancer. Our aim is to be able to reduce the current dosage of today’s chemotherapy, says researcher Nina Richartz at the Department of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oslo.

She and her colleagues have tested different kinds of drugs on mice – drugs that are currently used to combat other conditions. They wanted to find out whether these drugs could enhance the effect of the chemotherapy used to treat leukemia. In addition, they wanted to see whether they could slow down the progression of the disease.

– Some of the drugs we tested were: an agent used to treat paracetamol overdose, an anti-inflammatory medicine and a drug currently used to treat certain kinds of breast cancer, explains Richartz. And the results of the experiments on mice are promising.

Cancer cells mutate to avoid dying

The aim of the cancer treatment is to stop the cancer cells dividing, or even better, destroy them. One of Richartz’ areas of research is to understand the “tricks” that cancer cells use to escape destruction – an important factor when it comes to helping the chemotherapy to kill cancer cells more efficiently. 

Our body consists of trillions of cells that must continually communicate with one another in order to perform important bodily functions. If the cells cannot communicate in the right way, this can lead to disorders such as cancer, dementia and immunodeficiency diseases.

– One of the important processes that occur in our cells is called autophagy. This process can be compared with the recycling of waste in order to create new products. In the same way, cells get rid of damaged or unnecessary parts of themselves in order to gain new energy. This is normally beneficial for the body. But the cancer cells use this same process to procure the nutrients they need in order to survive and rapidly divide. And we don’t want that to happen. Instead, we want to stop this process so that the cancer cells are more easily targeted by the chemotherapy, continues Richartz.

The scientists studied how cancer cells send signals to one another

Richartz has therefore studied the communication process in cancer cells which allows them to trigger autophagy.

– We carried out experiments whereby we injected mice with leukemia cells. The experiments showed that the onset of leukemia was delayed in mice when we inhibited what is called the cAMP signalling pathway, reveals Richartz.

These discoveries lead the researchers to believe that leukemia could be treated in several new ways. It usually takes between ten to twenty years to develop new medicines. The good news is that Richartz’ findings mean that it may not be necessary to develop new drugs to combat leukemia more efficiently.

– There are several drugs that already exist and are approved for the treatment of other diseases. Our findings indicate that a number of these could enhance the treatment of children suffering from leukemia, she says.

Drugs can have unwanted effects

The scientists are in close collaboration with doctors who are treating children with leukemia and have discussed the possibility of testing these drugs on the sick children. But so far, they have come to the conclusion that more research must be done using both test tubes and mice before these medicines can be tested on such vulnerable patients.

The researchers are therefore planning more experiments on mice and using cancer cells extracted from children with leukemia. They have access to these cells through their close collaboration with the Children and Youth Clinic at Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet.

The problem is that some of these approved medicines can also cause unwanted effects that must be weighed up against the serious side effects of the chemotherapy.

– Since nine out of ten children and young people survive acute lymphocytic leukemia, careful assessments must be made before doctors would be willing to try out these alternative drugs, says Richartz.

– But in any case, we are working towards a common goal: to reduce the negative effects of today’s effective treatment of leukemia, she emphasises.

The research was carried out as part of Richartz’ doctorate. Her supervisor was Heidi Kiil Blomhoff.

For more information:

cAMP-Mediated Autophagy Promotes Cell Survival via ROS-Induced Activation of PARP1: Implications for Treatment of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

 

The source of this news is from University of Oslo

Popular in Research

1

Nov 25, 2022

Deep technology solves global challenges - Aalto University is a good growth platform for deep tech companies

2

4 days ago

Celebrating 20 years of discovery, Picower Institute looks ahead to continuing impact

3

Nov 26, 2022

Deep technology solves global challenges - Aalto University is a great growth platform for deep tech companies

4

Nov 17, 2022

The surprising Swiss-Army-knife-like functions of a powerful enzyme

5

Nov 19, 2022

A more sustainable production of industrial chemicals

China operating over 100 police stations across the world with the help of some host nations, report claims

3 hours ago

Expert Comment: Unemployment could undermine social trust in Europe

2 days ago

Trump Prosecutors See Evidence for Obstruction Charges

3 hours ago

Payrolls and wages blow past expectations, flying in the face of Fed rate hikes

2 days ago

MIT student club Engineers Without Borders works with local village in Tanzania

3 hours ago

Professor Tom Eagar, renowned metallurgist and admired storyteller, dies at 72

1 day ago