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New treatment in the pipeline for leukaemia and rheumatoid arthritis

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Australian scientists believe they are well on the way to developing a new treatment for leukaemia and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

The scientists from the Hanson Institute in Adelaide and the St Vincent’s Institute in Melbourne, say while the treatment promises to be much more effective it does not represent a cure.

The researchers have discovered an important protein found on the surface of white blood cells that controls the production and function of the blood cells, and it causes them to malfunction causing conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and leukaemia.

They say the protein receptor assembles on the surface in a network, when a hormone called GM-CSF binds to the receptor and the network then signals to the inside the cell, instructing it to proliferate, divide and expand.

They say this is significant because when this receptor malfunctions, it causes certain types of leukaemia and they believe they have found a way to develop a new treatment to stop the protein from controlling the spread of cancerous cells.

Professor Michael Parker from the St Vincent’s Institute says this could lead to new treatments for leukaemia and some inflammatory diseases.

Dr. Parker says he is confident they can develop antibodies that will disrupt the network which would offer faster treatment for the disease which is a very exciting area of drug development.

Current drugs can take 10 to 15 years to be effective and Dr. Parker says because the protein receptor is on the outside of a cell the molecules to be developed do not have to get inside the cells so it makes the drug development easier and quicker.

Dr. Parker says research suggests this particular protein receptor is involved in some of the most aggressive forms of leukaemia, particularly types of childhood leukaemia and is also involved in a number of inflammatory diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

The scientists have signed an agreement with the pharmaceutical company CSL to develop a new treatment that will stop the protein from controlling the spread of cancerous cells.

Their research is published in the journal Cell.

(Source: Cell: Hanson Institute: August 2008)

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Dates

Posted On: 12 August, 2008
Modified On: 16 September, 2014

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