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They manage to transform cancer cells into harmless immune cells


New treatment for an aggressive type of leukemia.

Researchers at Stanford University found a method that can make leukemic cells mature and turn into macrophages, a type of cell of the immune system that results harmless for the body.

B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a particularly aggressive cancer of the white blood cells with a poor prognosis. The cancer cells in this disease are immature B cells, which are unable to mature properly into normal B cells.

The researchers isolated the leukemic cells from a patient with this type of leukemia and tried to keep them alive in a culture dish.

After a few days, they happened to observe that ametamorphosis unusual: Cancer cells in culture were changing shape and size to what looked like macrophages and could even perform macrophage functions such as eating bacteria. Macrophages are a type of cell of the immune system, whose function is to trap and digest cancer cells and pathogens.

Importantly, unlike typical leukemic cells, these reprogrammed cells already they were not capable of causing disease in immunodeficient mice. This reprogramming process could also cause it to occur in patients with B-cell precursor lymphoblastic leukemia, which could represent a new therapeutic strategy.

Because the new macrophages come from cancer cells, they are able to identify cancer cells, making an immune attack against the cancer likely.

McClellana JS, Dovea C, Gentlesb AJ, Ryana CE and Majetia R. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (2015). More information.

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