Scientists identify new possibility for untreatable blood cancer

Published: Comments:
Community Health & Wellness Science & Research

Social:   

Scientists have discovered a new biomarker that could help to unlock the medical mystery behind an untreatable blood cancer that affects mostly older Australians.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Immunology in Cancer and Infection senior scientist Professor Mark Smyth and clinician researcher Dr Kyohei Nakamura worked with colleagues in France to make the discovery about multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma grows in the bone marrow and affects around 1800 Australians every year. The average age of diagnosis is 70 years. The study found a particular molecule called IL-18 supressed the immune system to help create a bone marrow environment where cancer was more likely to grow.

The study analysed the impact of IL-18 on 152 patients with multiple myeloma and found strong evidence that high levels of the molecule were associated with poorer survival.

Professor Smyth said IL-18 was responsible for promoting the immune suppressive function of a particular kind of white blood cell (granulocyte) in the bone marrow.

He said the resulting suppression hindered another kind of immune cell, known as a T cell, from doing its job of finding and destroying cancer cells.

“IL-18 has traditionally been recognised as a growth factor for immune cells because it was thought to promote the activity of the white blood or ‘natural killer’ cells that protect us from infection and cancer,” he said.

“We’ve turned that thinking on its head with our discovery that IL-18 is actually a pro-tumour factor, which causes virtually the opposite effect.

“IL-18 is critical in the progression of multiple myeloma by enabling one part of the immune system to suppress another.”

Professor Smyth said bone marrow IL-18 levels were a potential biomarker for predicting a person’s disease prognosis as well as a potential target for new multiple myeloma treatments.

“Our research shows IL-18 could be an independent prognostic factor, which is very significant,” he said.

“Practically speaking, the higher a person’s IL-18 levels in the bone marrow, the greater the likelihood their immune system is suppressed. That means their prognosis is not as good.”

Dr Nakamura said the findings could one day influence the way patients were treated for multiple myeloma.

“If a person’s prognosis is not as good because they have higher levels of IL-18 in the bone marrow, a doctor might choose to treat the patient more aggressively,” he said.

Dr Nakamura said the discovery was vital to building a better understanding of what caused inflammation in the bone marrow that lead to the development of multiple myeloma.

“Multiple myeloma creates a really inflammatory microenvironment inside the bone marrow,” he said.

“We want to understand the molecular processes underpinning that inflammation.

“This will help us to determine whether this biology is unique to the bone marrow and multiple myeloma, or whether it is also present in other cancers.”

Dr Nakamura said there was even potential to one day work with pharmaceutical partners interested in targeting IL-18 with a unique antibody or small molecule inhibitors.

He said a test for IL-18 in the bone marrow of patients would need to be performed at the point of diagnosis by taking a fluid sample from inside the bones.

The QIMR Berghofer-led research involved multiple collaborators from across the globe and within Australia.

The work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Cure Cancer Australia and Cancer Australia through the Cancer Australia Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme.

It was published in Cancer Cell today.

 
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute :
PO Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, QLD, 4029, Brisbane
07 3845 3752
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
Hope for transplant patients after world-first Queensland immunotherapy trial 06 July 2018 | Organ transplant patients who face a lifetime of medication to ward off viral infection – or the potentially deadly threat of drug-resistant infection – may have new hope following a world-first clinical trial... More information...
Major study uncovers new breast cancer genes and opens the door for more discoveries 19 June 2018 | An international team of researchers has used a new scientific method to discover at least 12 new genes that influence the risk of developing breast cancer. More information...
Cancer a hit to the heart and the back pocket 11 June 2018 | One quarter of Queenslanders diagnosed with cancer will pay upfront doctors’ fees of more than $20,000 in the first two years, according to a new study shining a light on out-of-pocket costs for survivors. More information...
New genetic markers could help predict onset of debilitating eye disease 15 May 2018 | Scientists have discovered 19 new genetic markers that could predict whether a person is at a higher risk of eye disease. More information...
Researchers uncover how infant viral infections become childhood asthma 10 May 2018 | We have been able to show that young mice with a respiratory virus produce a cell messenger called prostaglandin 2 that actually makes it harder for their immune system to clear the viral infection. More information...
Global genetic study of skin colour unearths 14 new genetic markers 09 May 2018 | Scientists have doubled the number of genetic markers known to influence the ability of a person’s skin to tan. More information...
9 in 10 Australians don't know when they need sun protection 19 March 2018 | Australians could be unknowingly increasing their skin cancer risk, with new data released by Cancer Council today showing that 40 percent of Australians are still confused about which weather factors cause... More information...
Scientists identify new possibility for untreatable blood cancer 16 March 2018 | Scientists have discovered a new biomarker that could help to unlock the medical mystery behind an untreatable blood cancer that affects mostly older Australians. More information...
Online risk predictor to help identify people at high risk of melanoma 12 March 2018 | Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have developed an online test for people aged 40 and over to predict their risk of developing melanoma over the next 3.5 years. More information...
Researchers build tiny DNA nanorobots to block cancer growth 13 February 2018 | Scientists have successfully designed tiny nanorobots made of DNA and protein that can be targeted directly at tumours to stop them from growing. More information...



Social:   
comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service