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Researchers expand natural killer cells in cord blood to fight leukemia
Date:5/16/2008

CINCINNATI, OHIO - Researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have found a therapy that effectively kills human leukemia cells in mice using natural killer (NK) cells from umbilical cord blood.

Patrick Zweidler-McKay, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics from the Children's Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson, has shown an effective method for expanding the number of NK cells from a single cord blood unit while retaining the cells' anti-leukemia effects, as presented at the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology annual conference on May 16.

Previous efforts to expand cord blood have resulted in ineffective NK cells. However, Zweidler-McKay and co-senior investigator Elizabeth Shpall, M.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, have found a novel process to increase NK cells in cord blood more than 30-fold, generating more than 150 million NK cells from one cord blood unit while maintaining their activation to find and kill acute leukemia cells.

When given to mice with aggressive human leukemias, these NK cells reduced the circulating human acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cells by 60 to 85 percent.

"Cord blood is a promising source of natural killer cells because the NK cells have enhanced sensitivity to stimulation, decreased potential to cause graft-versus-host disease and are available from cord banks throughout the country and world," says Zweidler-McKay.

NK Cells Spare Normal Cells While Attacking ALL and AML

Graft-versus-host disease is a common side effect of patients receiving stem cell transplants, which results when the T cells in the transplanted blood react against the patient's own cells. This disease can become fatal if it's unable to be controlled. NK cells operate differently from T cells, leaving normal cells alone while targeting and
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Contact: Sara Farris
sfarris@mdanderson.org
281-467-1337
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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