Dr. Ruth M. Risueño's group has recently identified a new mechanism to combat acute myeloid leukaemia. The results of the study have been published in the journal Leukemia, a world standard bearer in the field of hematology. This study, the main author of which is the researcher Amaia Etxabe, describes a specific potential therapy for leukaemia stem cells.
Acute myeloid leukaemia was the first tumour in which a population of leukaemia stem cells was described. These are cells with the same properties as normal stem cells, so they have the capacity to reproduce malignant cells.
With standard chemotherapy, the rates of remission for this kind of leukaemia are currently between 50% and 85%, although most patients suffer a relapse of the disease. The leukaemia stem cells are the population of cells within the tumour responsible for initiating and maintaining the disease and for causing a relapse. For this reason treatment must eradicate them so that the disease can be eliminated completely.
During their research, the IJC group found that leukaemia cells express the serotonin receptor type 1 (HTR1) on their surface. The HTR receptors are typically associated with the nervous system, and this is the first time that their implication in the cancer process has been identified.
The inhibition of this receptor would lead to the destruction of this kind of leukaemia cell, but would have a minimal effect on healthy blood cells.
The study therefore shows the importance of HTR1 in the production of this kind of leukaemia and identifies this group of receptors as a new therapeutic target in AML with prognosis value.