WASHINGTON - Australian and Canadian researchers have developed a new therapy that specifically targets cancer stem cells in acute myeloid leukaemia.

The new treatment targets a protein, CD123, on the surface of cancer stem cells that drive acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is an aggressive disease with a poor outcome.

In the study led by Dr. Richard Lock in Australia, the researchers showed that antibodies targeting cancer stem cells significantly reduced the growth of human AML cells that had been transplanted into immune-deficient mice, mimicking the human disease.

Principle investigator of the study Dr. John Dick, senior scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute, had previously shown that there is a population of cells within cancer, termed cancer stem cells, which are responsible for sustaining cancer growth.

The antibody targets the CD123 protein (IL-3 receptor a chain) on the cancer stem cells that drive cancer growth.

However, it does not appear to affect normal blood cells. On the basis of this experimental work, a Phase I clinical trial has been initiated to test safety and effectiveness in patients. (ANI)