Leukemia is a group of blood cancers that often begin in the bone marrow. This is because there are not enough normal blood cells. It also creates large numbers of abnormal blood cells. The symptoms include bone pain, bleeding, swelling, fatigue, fever, and increased chances of infection.

Although its cause is unknown, several possible factors, including smoking and ionizing radiation, could be involved. Though Leukemia is the most common cancer in children, it’s also one of the leading causes of adult death.

Wouldn’t it be great if highly proliferative and rapidly growing leukemia cells could become normal cells and stop multiplying? It would be like putting the jack-in-the-box back in the box.

The new research, conducted by scientists in Barcelona (Spain), has seen significant participation by colleagues at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. These include Prof. Gideon Rehavi and Nitzankol, Chen Avrahami, and Sharon Moshitch – Moshitch -Moshkovitz. Their research findings were published in Leukemia (a high-impact journal) under the title: “Remodeling and the m6ARNA Landscape in the conversions of acute lymphoblastic Leukemia Cells to macrophages.”

The article describes how cells with Leukemia can be transformed into normal cells, which are no longer able to multiply by changing chemical alterations (the so-called epigenetics) of a type of its genetic material, messenger RNA. Alberto Bueno-Costa (Spanish participant) was a researcher from the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute of Barcelona University.

After much research

Cancer occurs when healthy cells are transformed into malignant ones. These cells have different characteristics, like the capability to divide unpredictably and can be beneficial. Recent decades have seen a lot of research on the molecular mechanisms that lead to this conversion. However, scientists don’t know enough about how to reverse cancer cells, making them physiological and noncancerous.

The team revealed that one-way human tumors could avoid drugs’ effectiveness is to alter their appearance and become another type of cancer, unresponsive to the drug. “Leukemias that are lymphoid-like can be switched to myeloid varieties to avoid treatment.

This insight prompted them to explore the molecular pathways that underlie this cell transformation. They examined an in vitro model in which leukemia cells could be transformed into inoffensive immune cells, called macrophages.

Experimental outcomes demonstrated that the conversion of malignant cells to macrophages involved a massive revision in the chemical changes on their messenger RNA – the carriers that help proteins form. These changes mainly affected the dissemination and expression of an epigenetic mark called a methylated amine. This causes the angle formed by two adjacent chemical bonds to these molecules to change, resulting in the instability of proteins that make up the Leukemia. In addition, macrophages are a protein characteristic of normal cells and can be seen as the result of the birth of new cells.

Even though this research hasn’t been applied to patients yet, the team says it is promising and worth further investigation. The more strategies developed to fight Leukemia, the greater the hope for half a billion patients diagnosed each year with blood malignancies worldwide.