Promising studies: new approach to the treatment of leukemia
The so-called acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common blood cancer diseases in Germany. Although the chances of a cure have improved significantly in recent years, only a small proportion of those affected can be cured in the long term. German researchers are now reporting on a new approach to treating AML.
Most common form of acute leukemia
According to the "Competence Network Leukemia", acute myeloid leukemia (AML) "with 3.5 new diagnoses per 100,000 inhabitants annually is a rare disease, but the most common form of acute leukemia in Germany. Men are affected a little more often than women. ”In addition to chemotherapy, AML often also carries out a stem cell and bone marrow transplant. Researchers from Dresden are now reporting on a new approach to treating the rare disease.
Untreated, disease leads to death within a few weeks
This disease, which is caused by malignant, genetic changes in the bone marrow, mainly affects older patients - half of the patients are over 70 years old.
Symptoms such as severe pallor, tiredness, malaise, an increased susceptibility to infections as well as bleeding, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, reduced performance and dizziness often occur in those affected within a short time.
However, some patients have little discomfort and the leukemia is only discovered by chance.
But: "AML is a serious illness that, if left untreated, leads to death within a few weeks," writes the "Competence Network Leukemia".
“It is therefore extremely important that therapy is started immediately after diagnosis. The most important part of the treatment is chemotherapy with accompanying therapy to treat the side effects, ”the experts continued.
In some cases, bone marrow transplantation can occur. Radiation therapy plays a subordinate role at AML.
However, research continues on therapeutic options for blood cancer. For example, US researchers recently reported that high-dose vitamin C infusions could help against leukemia. And other scientists from the United States developed a new immunotherapy for blood cancer.
German experts have now also taken a big step towards a new approach to treating AML.
Chances of recovery have increased significantly
Although the chances of cure for AML have increased significantly in the past decades, the five-year survival rate is only 30 percent, in the long term about 20 percent of patients can be cured.
New immune therapies and targeted therapies could be key to better survival. Scientists from Dresden have developed a promising drug that will be tested in clinical studies from the beginning of next year.
The bispecific antibody "GEM333", newly developed under the direction of TU Dresden professors Gerhard Ehninger and Michael Bachmann in the spin-off bio-tech company GEMoaB, recognizes a structure called CD3 on the immune cells and the receptor CD33 on the blood cancer cells in patients with acute myeloid leukemia.
Thanks to its bridging function, the antibody triggers a defense reaction that can suppress cancer.
Laboratory tests to date have been very promising
"The drug could open up new opportunities especially for patients with a relapse or poor therapeutic response," said Prof. Gerhard Ehninger in a message.
“The laboratory tests to date have been very promising. From the beginning of 2018 we want to test the new active ingredient in a phase I clinical trial. Based on 35 patients, the appropriate dose is to be determined at the Dresden location and at the University Hospital in Würzburg, ”said the expert.
The principle is similar to that of a Lego brick, which can be connected to other bricks on both its top and bottom: Artificially produced, bispecific antibodies can bind at one end to a surface molecule of a cancer cell, and at the other to structures in the membrane certain immune cells, called T cells.
“Toxins from the T cell enter the leukemia cell via this connecting bridge and can destroy it. Without such artificial help, the immune system cannot recognize the cancer cells as enemies. With the help of a suitable bispecific antibody, it is once again able to actively fight cancer, ”explained Prof. Michael Bachmann.
Bispecific antibodies are "newcomers" to the therapy landscape compared to other treatment options. In 2014 and 2015, the first bispecific antibody for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) - a form of leukemia that primarily affects children - was approved. (ad)