New method to keep leukaemia stem cells in culture will help drug
15 April 2014
Two new chemical compounds that can keep alive cultures of leukemic
stem cells have been discovered by a team from Université de Montréal
and Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Quebec, Canada.
The discovery opens the way to the identification of new cancer
drugs to fight acute myeloid leukaemia, one of the most aggressive
forms of blood cancer.
Stem cells quickly lose their cancer stem cell character when
grown in culture, as a result, it has been very difficult to
effectively study the multiplication of cells that causes leukaemia.
The team of researchers studied leukemic stem cells from patients
with acute myeloid leukemia, obtained from the Quebec Leukemia Cell
Bank. After thousands of tests using various chemicals, they
identified two new chemical compounds that, when added to the
culture medium, can keep functional human leukemic stem cells alive
for at least seven days in vitro.
Top: Acute myeloid leukemia cells presenting
anomalies in standard growth conditions. Below: Acute myeloid leukemia cells preserving their leukemic cell features following in
vitro culture with the two chemical molecules referred to in the
“This research breakthrough demonstrates the advantage of working in
a multidisciplinary team like the ‘Leucégène’ research group. Access
to cells of leukaemia patients and to IRIC’s state-of-the-art
facilities are also key factors in pursuing ground-breaking
research,” wrote Guy Sauvageau, chief executive officer and
principal investigator at the Institute for Research in Immunology
and Cancer (IRIC) and Dr. Josée Hébert, director of the Quebec
Leukemia Cell Bank in
Stem cells located in the bone marrow are responsible for the
production of blood cells. Unfortunately, deregulation of those
cells often produces disastrous consequences when one of them
develops mutations that transform it into a malignant cell called
“leukaemic”. The result is an abnormal proliferation of blood cells
and the development of leukaemia. Leukaemic stem cells are also one
of the likely causes of patient relapse because they are especially
resistant to cancer treatments.