Fighting leukaemia with the body's own immune system

An image of a cancer cell. -- PHOTO: A*STAR 
An image of a cancer cell. -- PHOTO: A*STAR 

SINGAPORE - Scientists have found a way of targeting cancer cells that uses the body's own immune system, which could hold the key to more effective leukaemia treatment in the future.

The team from A*Star's Singapore Immunology Network found that certain lipids inside cancer cells trigger a response from a specific group of white blood cells. These white blood cells then kill cancerous cells, limiting the spread of cancer.

Typically, leukaemia is treated using chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. The patient is then given a stem cell transplant to restore healthy blood cells.

"But current treatment methods run the risk of failure due to re-growth of residual leukaemia cells that survive after stem cell transplants," said Dr Lucia Mori, the principal investigator from the network.

Her team's work, however, means that the body's own immune system could be harnessed to help fight cancer.

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