Leukemia: a Quebec discovery bringing hope for sick children

2023-04-18 16:31:26

Researchers at CHU Saint-Justine recently succeeded in creating new cells to cure rare and resistant leukemias in children. Clinical trials should begin in 2024 with sick children.

“It’s completely a new way of doing things, rejoices the Dr Michael Duval. We inject cells, not to make them act on their own, but to call other cells to act, so that they recruit the whole army to beat cancer.”

For many children with leukemia, traditional chemotherapy treatments don’t work. For all childhood cancers, regarding 15% will die because chemotherapy is ineffective, laments the Dr Duval. “I still see them too often die of their illness,” he laments.

Activate cancer killers

Then there is immunotherapy. Treatment consists of a bone marrow transplant, often from a loved one, to boost the immune system. The objective is then to activate “killer” cells once morest cancer.

However, these cells often need a nudge or “sentinels” to know where to act and how. This is where the new cells created at Sainte-Justine, called ThINKK, come into play.

Sentinel cells are too rare in the human body to successfully extract them, for example. It is less than one cell in 1000, continues the Dr Duval.

He and his team came up with the idea of ​​cultivating them from umbilical cord blood, collected following childbirth by Héma-Québec. These cells thus created are similar to sentinels, but only activate cancer killer cells.

On mice

So far, the results are staggering, according to the Dr Duval. However, he clarified that the tests have not yet left the laboratory.

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But the sentinels of Sainte-Justine succeeded in curing even the most acute leukemias in mice.

Preclinical trials have shown cure in 80% of cases. “We managed to destroy leukemia cells from a patient who had one of the most aggressive myeloid leukemias I have seen in my career,” added Dr.r Duval.

The first phase of clinical trials might begin as early as 2024 if Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States give the green light.

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