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New Approach Explored to Treat Childhood Leukemia

By October 17, 2018No Comments

UW Medicine researchers are exploring a potential new approach to treating the common childhood cancer acute lymphocyte  leukemia, or ALL.

ALL, a blood cancer, represents approximately 25 percent of cancer diagnoses in the newborn to 15-year-old age range. More than 3,000 new cases of ALL are diagnosed every year in the United States, and the incidence is rising.

Matt Hart, a postdoc  in pathology  in the lab of Marshall Horwitz  at the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, conducted a multiyear investigation of a possible new way of treating ALL.  The findings of this research, still in its preliminary phase, was  published in  the journal PLOS Genetics.

The researchers explained that the 5-year survival rate for ALL has increased significantly since 1975,  from 60 percent  to 90 percent in patients under 15.  The treatments, typically chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, and, recently, immunotherapy , are still hard on children, families, and health systems, and can have side effects. Adolescents and adults fare less well.

ALL, a blood cancer,  occurs when the bone marrow makes too many of the white blood cells known as lymphocytes. The rapid growth of these immature stem cells impedes the development of healthy immune cells, thereby compromising the body’s ability to fight disease and infections.

In their search for better treatments, the Horwitz lab concentrated on B-cell lymphocytes.