The Role Of Leukemia Stem Cells In Cancer Remission Rates

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Cancer is one of the world’s most significant health problems. Scientists and doctors have been researching cancer for generations and while we know more about this set of diseases than we used to, modern medicine still does not have conclusive answers to all of the unknowns surrounding different types of cancer. There are many different types of cancer, each of which has its own set of characteristics and patterns. 

Leukemia is perhaps one of the most notorious forms of cancer. Not only does it appear in children with relative frequency, but it is also often difficult to eradicate. Though there have been helpful advancements in recent years, leukemia—and cancer in general—is far from being cured. 

Fortunately, researchers have recently uncovered helpful new information that may change the way leukemia is treated and improve the chances of remission. These new discoveries are around cancerous stem cells and how we understand them. 

Current treatment plans for chronic myeloid leukemia often involve administering tyrosine kinase inhibitors. These drugs have shown to be incredibly helpful in boosting the efficacy of cancer treatments by attacking cancer cells while reducing damage to the body’s normal cells. 

Achieving Extended Remission

However, issues with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor can occur after treatment has ceased. After suspending tyrosine kinase inhibitors, many patients achieve undetectable leukemia levels, and doctors consider the treatment a success. 

Unfortunately, it appears that cancer has a 50% chance of returning after tyrosine kinase inhibitors have stopped being administered. Thus, researchers have wondered what the solution for long-term remission is for ongoing use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors. 

Why Do Remission Rates Vary? 

It may seem alarming that so many patients see a return of cancer growth. However, the reasoning behind this is fairly straightforward. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors address the chronic myeloid leukemia cells, which are the cancerous cells that affect the tumor’s growth. However, they do not address the leukemia stem cells.

This means that the stem cells are left relatively unharmed, and it is possible for them to grow back.

KLF4 Gene

Promising new research has found that removing the KLF4 (Krüppel-like factor 4) gene from leukemia stem cells robs them of the strength to regenerate and grow back. According to recent studies, increasing levels of a protein stability enzyme known as DYRK2 have effectively inhibited the KLF4 gene. In addition, experiments have identified an enzyme known as SIAH2 as a major barrier to the body’s proper expression of the DYRK2 enzyme, which means that under normal conditions, the KLF4 gene can enable leukemia stem cells to continue regenerating.

A simple vitamin, vitamin K3, has been found to be effective at inhibiting SIAH2. Therefore, Vitamin K3 can serve to increase bodily levels of the DYRK2 enzyme needed to inhibit the KLF4 gene. In turn, the survival and regeneration of leukemia stem cells is prevented, increasing the chances of long-term remission.

This is fantastic news for the scientific community looking to help patients suffering from leukemia. As research continues regarding the use of both tyrosine kinase inhibitors and vitamin K3’s role in helping inhibit KLF4, the prospect of permanent remission from one of the world’s most devastating diseases has become much brighter.

Sources:

https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/864360 (from Nov 2019)

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