Forcing Leukemia Cells to Behave

During laboratory experiments, while growing these leukemic cells, the authors observed that some of the cancer cells in culture were changing shape and size into what looked like macrophages. Subsequent experiments confirmed that by manipulating some of the transcription factors, these human cancer cells could be transformed into macrophages, which can engulf and digest cancer cells and pathogens.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that when a certain aggressive leukemia is causing havoc in the body, the solution may be to force the cancer cells to grow up and behave.

After a chance observation in the lab, the researchers found a method that can cause dangerous leukemia cells to mature into harmless immune cells known as macrophages. The findings will be described in a paper that will be published online March 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia with a mutation called the Philadelphia chromosome is a particularly aggressive cancer with poor outcomes, said Ravi Majeti, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine and senior author of the paper. So finding potential treatments is particularly exciting.

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