Cancer research is the most-researched upon subject and a breakthrough came from Stanford University researcher Ravi Majeti, an Indian origin researcher who found a method that can cause cancerous leukemia cells into harmless immune cells called macrophages.
He found it by accident when he collected leukemia cells from a patient for observation and was trying to keep the cells alive in a culture plate. Majeti and his They were throwing everything at the cells to help them survive and in the process realised that some of the cancer cells in the culture were chaning shape and size into what looked like macrophages. There they are hitting a breakthrough the way pincillin was discovered by John Fleming.
“We were throwing everything at them to help them survive,” said Majeti, who was helped in his research by his post-doctoral scholar Scott McClellan.
Extrapolating the research results, Majeti said known methods shown to have altered progenitor cells years ago in the mouse could be used to transform these human cancer cells into macrophages, which can engulf and digest cancer cells and pathogens.
“So finding potential treatments is particularly exciting,” Majeti said. Once the cancer cells become macrophages they will not only be neutralised but may actually assist in fighting the cancer, the researchers hope.
“Because the macrophage cells came from the cancer cells, they will already carry with them the chemical signals that will identify the cancer cells, making an immune attack against the cancer more likely,” Majeti explained.
Now the researchers want to explore whether they can find a drug that can prompt the same reaction to serve as the basis for a therapy for the leukemia. Their paper has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Majeti lab in Stanford focuses on the molecular/genomic characterization and therapeutic targeting of leukemia stem cells in human hematologic malignancies, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Majeti is also interested in developing a similar characterization of normal human hematopoiesis and hematopoietic stem cells, esepcially, the identification of cell surface molecules preferentially expressed on leukemia stem cells and the development of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies targeting these proteins.