McMaster study identifies an unexpected cell population key to blood cancer relapse

IMAGE: This photo shows postdoctoral fellows Lili Aslostovar, left, and Allison Boyd, centre, at work in the lab with Mick Bhatia, right, director of the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute… view more 

Credit: Photo by Kevin Patrick Robbins/McMaster University.

Hamilton, ON (September 10, 2018) – McMaster University researchers have provided evidence of new cancerous cells they have termed cancer regenerating cells, which are responsible for the return of acute myeloid leukemia after remission.

Current therapy is effective at inducing remission in adult patients with acute myeloid leukemia, but most patients later succumb after a relapse. That relapse has been thought to be caused by rare and dormant cancer stem cells that escape chemotherapy.

The study published today in the journal Cancer Cell suggests that leukemia cells change in unique ways in response to the chemotherapy, allowing them to masquerade for a short time so they are able to start disease regeneration.

The research involved combined efforts from both scientists and physicians and spanned more than five years in development. The team took on the challenge of hunting down the rare leukemic cells that remain right after chemotherapy treatment. The surprise was that the most resilient cells left behind


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