Melbourne UniversityThis news may hold critical importance since it concerns childhood leukaemia. Researchers from the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Melbourne University have found the cells that appear to cause a general kind of childhood leukaemia namely T cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (T-ALL). Targeting of these cells could result in advanced treatments for this disease and aid in averting relapse.

The researchers appeared to have made the sighting when they were examining mice inclined to developing this leukaemia. The team discovered that with irradiation treatment in animal models, more than 99 per cent of cells in the thymus were destroyed, but these stem cell-like cells apparently endured and quickly recovered. This appears to propose that these cells could survive therapy and be accountable for relapsed disease subsequent to treatment.

Presently, children with T-ALL receive extensive therapy over two to three years in an effort to prevent a relapse. Additional targeted therapy on the thymus cells may decrease the length and toxicity of treatment and thwart relapse.

The team was headed by Dr Matthew McCormack and Dr David Curtis of the Rotary Bone Marrow Research Laboratories and the University’s Department of Medicine at The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Dr McCormack, a leading international expert on childhood leukaemia, commented, “The cellular origins of this leukaemia are not well understood. Our discovery that these cells are similar to normal stem cells explains why they are capable of surviving for long periods. It also explains why they are remarkably resistant to treatment.”

Dr. Curtis, a Clinical Haematologist and head of the Leukaemia Research Program at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, stated, “The identification of these cells provides an important target for the development and testing of new treatments for patients with T cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.”

Roughly 50 new cases of T-ALL seemed to be detected each year in Australia. Out of them, it is seen that around two thirds of these are children or teenagers. Adults also apparently develop T-ALL, and most of them appear to submit to resistant or relapsed disease.

The team may now concentrate on fresh treatments which ought to destroy these cells. This may result in clinical trials within the subsequent 5 years.

The research was published by the Journal Science.