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Leukemia: psychiatric drug for blood cancer
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common blood cancer diseases in Germany. The chances of a cure have improved significantly in recent years, but resistance remains an urgent problem with this form of blood cancer. An antidepressant could help here, as German researchers have found.
Men are affected a little more often
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 Frankfurt are now reporting that a psychiatric drug against this cancer could also be used.
If left untreated, the 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 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 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 gained new insights into the treatment of this type of cancer.
Resistance remains an urgent problem
Despite improved therapies, resistance to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) remains an urgent problem, so that new drugs are urgently needed.
As reported in a message from the University Clinic in Frankfurt, those affected have an increased number of immature cells in the bone marrow, which can no longer mature into normal blood cells.
A central goal of cancer researchers is therefore to let leukemia cells mature again and thus heal the disease. So-called epigenetic factors such as the enzyme lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) also play an important role in the maturation of blood cells.
LSD1 affects the packaging of DNA and thus changes the reading of crucial genes. It has been known for some years that LSD1 inhibitors can cause leukemia cells to mature, especially when the treatment is combined with the vitamin A derivative ATRA.
However, why this therapy only works for certain forms of AML has long remained unclear.
Positive results with antidepressant
A team around Dr. Tobias Berg from the University Hospital Frankfurt, together with colleagues from the University Hospital Freiburg, has now achieved great success in elucidating the effects of LSD1 inhibitors.
In the work published in the specialist magazine “Leukemia”, the researchers showed that blocking the regulator LSD1 with medication increases the activity of certain gene regulatory factors that are important for the maturation of the cells.
As a result of the treatment, mouse leukemia cells matured again into cells which resemble normal blood cells. The research team also discovered that only certain LSD1 inhibitors have this effect:
The scientists observed the best effect with chemical derivatives of tranylcypromine (TCP). TCP itself is already approved as a psychiatric treatment for depression and also blocks LSD1.
The effectiveness of the drug in humans is being investigated
The TRANSATRA study is investigating whether the drug is also effective and well tolerated in AML patients.
“The new findings from our current work are very valuable for clinical development and will now be incorporated into the TRANSATRA clinical study. Hopefully in the future we will be able to predict which patients will respond to the therapy, ”said Dr. Tobias Berg.
The approach of the TRANSATRA study is to combine the LSD1 inhibitor TCP with ATRA and a low-dose chemotherapy.
Phase I has now been completed. Now other participants are being sought to test the effectiveness of the drug in humans. (ad)