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New cancer inhibitor could lead to improved treatment options in CML

Researchers have discovered a potential advancement in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), which they hope will one day offer an improved option for treating patients with this form of blood cancer.

The study, published recently in Science Translational Medicine and led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with LifeArc, has discovered a potential ‘autophagy inhibitor’, which, when used in combination with current cancer therapies, could lead to better treatment options for CML cancer patients.

Autophagy is a cellular process that is frequently induced in cancer cells as a survival mechanism against anticancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted drugs. Therefore, inhibiting this process, in conjunction with standard treatment, has been proposed as a potential combination therapy for individuals with cancer. However, current approved autophagy inhibitors lack potency and have demonstrated limited efficacy in clinical trials.

In collaboration with LifeArc, a UK-based charity, the University of Glasgow scientists validated a preclinical autophagy inhibitor called MRT403, which, when used in combination with current CML therapies, reduced the growth of cancer cells derived from individuals with CML, and in leukaemia mouse models. It’s the first inhibitor of its kind to show efficacy against leukaemia cells, and the scientists hope it may also be applicable for other cancer types, such as pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancers.

At present, CML patients are treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), which have transformed the clinical management of the disease. Treatment of patients using TKIs alone rarely cures the disease, but they can hold its advancement at bay. As a result, most patients need to remain on TKIs for the rest of their lives, with associated side effects and the risk of developing resistance to the drugs.

 

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