Potential treatment for rare blood cancer

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56 , No. 2 , March 2014 , Pages 97-98 News

University of British Columbia researchers have discovered a potential new treatment for a rare blood cancer that may also point the way to treating other more common diseases.

Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinemia (PNH) is a rare form of cancer characterized by episodic rupture of red blood cells and the danger of blood clots forming in the vascular system. The condition results in red blood cells becoming vulnerable to attacks by the body’s own complement immune system and can lead to complications such as anemia, kidney disease, and fatal thromboses.

In a clinical study published in PLOS ONE, the UBC team, led by Dr Patrick McGeer, professor emeritus in UBC’s Department of Psychiatry, applied aurin tricarboxylic acid (ATA), a nontoxic drug, to blood samples of five patients with PNH who were undergoing standard treatment with antibodies administered through biweekly infusions.

Researchers found the addition of ATA restored blood cell resistance to complement system attacks, while the antibodies alone did not offer full protection.
Since many diseases are caused or worsened by an overactive complement immune system, Dr McGeer believes the discovery of ATA’s effectiveness in this rare disease could have wide-reaching implications for conditions such as Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, macular degeneration, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Further testing is underway and Dr McGeer hopes the treatment may be available in clinics within a year.

. Potential treatment for rare blood cancer. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 2, March, 2014, Page(s) 97-98 - News.



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