Researchers have discovered an agent that can attack multiple targets to treat leukemia, according to a study published in the journal Blood (2010 May 14. [Epub ahead of print]).

For the study, researchers tested Oxi4503, a novel blood-vessel disrupting agent, to find a treatment that targeted cancer cells and the environment in which the cancer cells live and grow. Acute myelogenous leukemia cells were treated in mouse models with Oxi4503, and blood vessels nourishing the cancer cells were also destroyed. After treating the cells with Oxi4503, the researchers then used bevacizumab to disrupt the secondary formation of blood vessels. 

Researchers found that the combined approach led to enhanced leukemia regression.

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“It is very exciting to find one drug that can target both the leukemic cell and the endothelium to diminish the progression of leukemias — those people who fail chemotherapy, early or late, could be treated with this drug to see whether they respond,” said Shahin Rafii, MD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College.

According to the National Cancer Institute, each year, more than 120,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a blood cancer, and about 80% of them die of the disease because there are no effective treatments.

“We’ve identified a new tool to dissect out the specifics of the relationship between leukemia cells and the blood vessels that supply them,” said Christopher Cogle, MD, the University of Florida College of Medicine oncologist who is senior author of the paper and a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center. “What we are offering is a brand new treatment by a very different mechanism to people who desperately need something new.”