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Spoiling the soil for leukemia favours normal blood cells

Tony Collins

Tony Collins | Monday, October 16, 2017

Promoting fat cells in the bone marrow inhibits leukemic cells but promotes normal blood generation

Dr. Allison Boyd in Mick Bhatia’s lab, led a team investigating how fat cells in the bone marrow affect healthy and leukemic blood cells.

Using new techniques developed in the lab that allow the study of multiple cell types in their complex tissue environment, the team discovered that bone marrow containing leukemic blood cells had a reduced number of fat cells as well as healthy blood cells.

The team found that a drug treatment previously known to increase the number of fat cells in bone marrow also boosted healthy blood cell production. Surprisingly, the increase in fat cells and healthy blood also suppressed the cancerous leukemic cells in the marrow.

Targeting cancer cells indirectly by boosting their healthy neighbours, provides a new opportunity to develop therapies that “spoil the soil” for cancer.

These findings published in Nature Cell Biology are part of ongoing collaborations between the SCC-RI, The Ottawa Hospital, Western University and Hamilton Health Sciences Hematology and Labour and Delivery departments.

Mick Bhatia

Mick Bhatia

Director and Senior Scientist