Do bacterial infections make MDS and AML worse?
People with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) often have severe and sometimes life-threatening infections. These infections have been seen as consequences of an immune system that has been weakened by AML or MDS, or by the chemotherapy used to treat these diseases.
But Professor Chris Bunce and his team at the University of Birmingham are investigating whether these infections are actually making the cancer worse by causing resistance to drugs and helping the cancer progress.
They have already identified specific proteins released by bacteria that send ‘survival signals’ to the cancer cells to grow more quickly. The team is now carrying out experiments in the laboratory to study how these bacterial infections alter the behaviour of patients’ cancer cells, and will test whether existing drugs can prevent this from happening.
If this is the case, their findings will have major implications for how MDS and AML are treated and managed.