Overcoming treatment resistance in AML
Blood stem cells are very young blood cells in the bone marrow - the spongy material found inside bone - that give rise to all the different types of blood cells, which include red and white blood cells, and platelets. When certain genetic changes happen in a blood stem cell, they become ‘leukaemic stem cells’ and instead of producing healthy blood cells, they seed a constant stream of blood cancer cells.
If someone with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) has higher numbers of leukaemic stem cells in their blood, they may respond much less well to chemotherapy, which is the main treatment for AML. Prof Freeman and her team, in conjunction with other researchers in the UK AML trial network, are investigating whether measuring the amounts of leukaemic stem cells in the blood could be used as a test before treatment starts to ensure that people receive the most appropriate treatment. They will also see what makes the leukaemic cells resist chemotherapy by looking at leukaemic genetic changes before and after chemotherapy. This could reveal new ways to treat AML that is not responding to treatment.