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.
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.
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