In a recent study, the Canadian researchers discovered that chemotherapy alters cancerous cells in those patients with acute myeloid leukemia, permitting them to hide and eventually trigger the cancer relapse. The new research, conducted by McMaster University, concluded that chemo could effectively fight against leukemia but, in some patients, this therapy could help the disease return.
“Chemotherapy works fantastically and is very good, but a year, two, sometimes five years later, cancer comes back,” said Mick Bhatia, the lead author of the study, and the director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.
The study also indicates that chemotherapy “allows something to be secreted in the blood and serum,” which modifies the blood and allows cancerous cells to hide. That is still puzzling for the scientists who are now struggling to find out which is the mechanisms behind this phenomenon.
“Based on this finding, we’ve set up a whole new campaign of research projects to find out how exactly this happens,” Bhatia added.
Chemotherapy causes acute myeloid leukemia to relapse by helping cancerous cells to “hide”
Canadian researchers studied over 30 patients with acute myeloid leukemia and used lab mice to learn more about the mechanism the cancerous cells hide thanks to chemo. A group of mice was injected with cancerous cells, and the lab animals developed leukemia, eventually.
Exposing the mice to chemotherapy, the scientists noticed that some of leukemia cancerous cells went undetected. Mike Bhatia compared the situation with a case of a female crime suspect who changes her appearance to go undetected.
“If the description is ‘Female, 5’10” with a blue hat,’ you would go into a crowd, and that’s what you would look for. If it turns out that she puts on a beard, puts lifts in her shoes so that she’s six feet tall and a black trench coat, she’s the same person but looks quite different. That person is responding to the knowledge that they’re being looked for,” stated Mike Bhatia.
The Canadian researchers concluded that, in order to employ successful chemotherapy in fighting acute myeloid leukemia, the therapy must target those hidden cells.