Zurich researchers have found a new treatment approach which they hope will help young leukaemia patients who don’t respond to conventional therapies.
Leukaemia is a malignant disease of the blood and bone marrow, which accounts for a third of childhood cancers.
Despite great progress in leukaemia treatment, recurrence of the disease is common. Treatment in these cases is often challenging because of the resistance of the cancer cells to the drugs currently available. Modern treatment processes are still very long and hard for the affected youngsters.
The Zurich University Children’s Hospital team, led by Jean-Pierre Bourquin, conducted their research around acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most frequently occurring form, of which there are up to 70 cases a year in Switzerland and up to 1,000 cases in Europe.
“By learning in international cooperative studies how to combine available chemotherapeutic agents, we have made incredible progress with the treatment of childhood leukaemia in the last 30-40 years, so that we can now cure more than 80 per cent of cases of ALL,” Bourquin told swissinfo.ch.
“But we still have a sub-group of patients that are resistant to whatever we do for them and we urgently need new kinds of treatments.”
These can be first timers or relapsed patients, he added.
Bourquin and his group investigated a substance called obatoclax mesylate and found a positive result: it actually lowered resistance when used in conjunction with chemotherapy.
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