White blood cells key in spread of aggressive blood cancer: Australian study

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CANBERRA, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) are honing in on a new treatment for an aggressive blood cancer.

In a study published on Wednesday the researchers revealed that white blood cells called macrophages are important in the proliferation of multiple myeloma, a cancer of white blood cells most common in people older than 60.

Khatora Opperman, the lead author of the study, said that the confirmation of the role played by macrophages in the development and spread of myeloma opens a new avenue to attack the disease.

"Currently the majority of treatment options target the myeloma cells themselves but armed with this knowledge we can also look at targeting the cells supporting those malignant cells," she said in a media release.

In a pre-clinical trial, conducted by Opperman's team eliminating macrophages led to a drastic reduction in the size of tumours.

"This is an exciting result, however there's some way to go before it can be translated into a practical therapy," Opperman said.

"Given the vital role macrophages play in the immune system, we can't eliminate or even significantly reduce them in people suffering multiple myeloma."

The next step for the researchers is to identify which, if any, macrophages are most important in the progression of the aggressive cancer.

"There are many different types of macrophage, so it could be that some are more relevant than others," Opperman said.

"The key influencer could also be something they secrete, or a particular molecule found on their surface."

There are approximately 1,800 diagnosed cases of multiple myeloma in Australia every year. Almost all sufferers are older than 40 and its prevalence is increasing as the population ages. Enditem

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