Monthly Archives: October 2017

Leukaemia and Diabetes Drugs?

Today, an interesting news story caught my eye regarding Leukaemia. Leukaemia is a cancer which usually originates from bone marrow, and leads to the production of abnormal white blood cells [1]. It is a disease categorised by the type of white blood cell it affects, which are the myeloid cells of lymphatic cells [1].

This poses an issue when it comes to treatment options, as targeting unhealthy, harmful mutated cells in the bone marrow, can also damage healthy cells – both white and red blood cells. There are several treatment options, including chemotherapy, biological therapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplants [2]. Biological therapy helps a patients’ immune system recognise leukaemia cells, and targeted therapy uses drugs which specifically target certain weaknesses within cancer cells [2]. While these options have a, rightfully, strong emphasis on target leukaemia cells, they can also often damage red blood cells – causing fatigue, dizziness, anaemia, and a wide range of side affects [3].

A recent study, published in ‘Nature Cell Biology’ takes a different approach, considering the ‘entire bone marrow as an ecosystem’ [3] and not just targeting diseased cells. It was found that Leukaemia suppresses the cells which store fat in the body, causing the maturation of red blood cells to stop, as their stem cells dysfunction [3].

What is particularly interesting, is that a drug, commonly used to treat type-2 diabetes, was shown to have positive effects. PPAR-gamma, helps to restore the fat cells in the bone marrow – thus, restoring healthy red blood cell development and minimising the leukaemia’s growth [3]. By changing the environment that the cancer ‘lives’ in, it allowed healthy cells to thrive and, if you will, ’outcompete’ the cancerous cells, suppressing their growth.

I think this has very exiting prospects for cancer treatment in the future, and is an approach which can be applied to many different therapies and treatment options. Looking at a broader image, organ or system could raise treatment options, which have no previously been considered.