New Science this Week #4: Curing Cancer With Cancer

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details the findings of researchers that have discovered a way to turn harmful cancer cells into harmless immune cells.

As these researchers threw everything they had at these cancer cells, they discovered that they found a way to turn these cancer cells into white blood cells that will actually fight the cancer cells.

For our scientifically minded viewers, the paper states,

Precursor B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) is an aggressive cancer of white blood cells with a poor prognosis. The cancerous cells in this disease are immature B cells, which are unable to fully differentiate into normal B cells. We show here that cancerous cells from B-ALL patients can be reprogrammed, causing them to change into cells that resemble normal macrophages and can perform macrophage-associated functions such as the consumption of bacteria. Importantly, unlike typical B-ALL cells, these reprogrammed cells are no longer able to cause disease in immunodeficient mice. Finally, we show that this reprogramming process may occur to some degree in patients with B-ALL. This indicates that reprogramming B-ALL cells into macrophages might represent a previously unidentified therapeutic strategy.[1]

This discovery is huge and may be able to help thousands of people around the globe get treatment for their cancer. In the United States, once every 3 minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer and once every 10 minutes someone dies of a blood cancer.[2]

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/112/13/4074.abstract

[2] http://www.lls.org/diseaseinformation/getinformationsupport/factsstatistics/


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