A group of Trinity researchers have announced details of a novel treatment for leukemia. The drug, called PBOX-15, works by causing leukemia cells to die. The new research is particularly significant because the drug appears to be effective on cancerous cells that are resistant to fludarabine, the currently-used treatment.
The research was published in the journal Cancer Research on November 1, and was co-authored by Dr. Tony McElligott, a senior Research Fellow in the laboratory of Professor Mark Lawler in the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.
PBOX-15 works by disrupting microtubules, which are key components of the internal structure or skeleton of the cancerous cells. This causes the cell to arrest its cycle of growth and subsequently induces apoptosis, or cell death, which is a normal process of healthy cells. Defects in apoptotic mechanisms are believed to be a primary cause of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the type of leukemia that this drug targets.
The research is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, PBOX-15 was effective on cells with poor prognostic markers, which are molecular indicators of aggressive disease. In the journal article, the authors write that the clinical course of CLL varies in patients, “with some patients displaying stable disease, which often requires no treatment other than ‘watchful waiting,’ whereas other patients have aggressive disease necessitating early intervention.”