Natural killer cells can treat leukemia in kids

New York: In a first, researchers have shown that select immune-system cells from young patients with leukemia can be multiplied in the lab - creating an army of natural killer (NK) cells that can be used to destroy cancer cells.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer of childhood.

This disease hinders the development of healthy blood cells while cancer cells proliferate.

“In our study, we used NK cells and ALL cells from the same pediatric patients. We found that autologous natural killer cells will destroy the patient's leukemia cells," claimed Nora Heisterkamp from the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.

To help the NK cells identify their target as leukemia cells, researchers also added a monoclonal antibody.

Researchers can design and produce antibodies called monoclonal antibodies (mAb) that specifically target a certain protein like the ones found on cancer cells.

“These results are very promising - with potential as a part of first line therapy and also as a treatment for eliminating any remaining cancer cells following standard chemotherapy,” added ao-author Hisham Abdel-Azim from Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

The findings, published in the journal Leukemia, could one day provide a less toxic and more effective way to battle this cancer in children, researchers concluded.

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