Anthony Letai Logo Even after going through a chemotherapy chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the disease may recur in the lymph nodes and bone marrow. A latest research suggests that CLL cells with stroma cells are more resistant to mitochondrial apoptosis and hence harder to kill with treatment. The findings can help develop better therapies for getting rid of CLL without the threat of reoccurrence.

At the time of the research, scientists utilized a technique known as BH3 profiling for detecting cancer cells that are less likely to face mitochondrial apoptosis. It is assumed that mitochondrial apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death involving mitochondria. Cancer cells may fail to undergo mitochondrial apoptosis due to modifications taking place within the Bcl-2 family of proteins. Such abnormalities supposedly make such cells less vulnerable to standard chemotherapy as well as new, targeted agents. CLL cells of patients were grown with non-cancerous support cells from the bone marrow and lymph nodes.

It appeared that the CLL cells were more resistant to apoptosis. Therefore, the cells were harder to kill with treatment than those acquired from the bloodstream. Matthew Davids, MD, of Dana-Farber, lead investigator and colleagues observe that circulating CLL cells would most probably die by mitochondrial apoptosis in response to treatment. However, those grown among non-cancerous cells were much less likely to die this way. Researchers predict that presence of normal cells called stroma help CLL cells survive, even though treatment is provided. In the absence of these cells, CLL cells are seemingly destroyed.

The research was presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting.