MAR 18, 2015 09:50 AM PDT

Chance observation: human leukemia cells turning into harmless immune cells

High magnification micrograph of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small cell lymphoma
After a chance observation in the lab, researchers found a method that can force dangerous leukemia cells in the lab to mature into harmless immune cells called macrophages.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that when a certain aggressive leukemia is causing havoc in the body, the solution may be to force the cancer cells to grow up and behave.

After a chance observation in the lab, the researchers found a method that can cause dangerous leukemia cells to mature into harmless immune cells known as macrophages.

The findings are described in a paper that published online March 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia with a mutation called the Philadelphia chromosome is a particularly aggressive cancer with poor outcomes, said Ravi Majeti, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine and senior author of the paper. So finding potential treatments is particularly exciting.

Majeti and his colleagues made the key observation after collecting leukemia cells from a patient and trying to keep the cells alive in a culture plate. "We were throwing everything at them to help them survive," said Majeti, who is also a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute and the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Source: med.stanford.edu
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