New treatment targets in AML
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) still has a generally poor outcome particularly for those over sixty. Hope for the future comes in the form of treatments which target key abnormalities that are the “Achilles’ heel” of the disease; unfortunately AML is a highly variable disease and only one subtype of the disease is currently treated in this way. We have however identified an abnormality that is common to the majority of AML patients, which is the over-production of reactive oxygen species (such as hydrogen peroxide). While ROS are damaging to normal blood cells, AML cells have developed resistance to them and moreover depend on ROS to promote their growth. We are using two approaches to exploit this situation, the first is to deprive the AML cells of ROS by using chemicals such as antioxidants to reduce their growth; the second is to sensitise AML cells to the damaging effects of ROS so that they become agents of their own destruction. We have shown that both of these approaches can be effective using agents that are much more easily tolerated than conventional chemotherapy and this programme will build on this success and refine these strategies for clinical trial.