Common Diabetes Drug May Destroy Remnant Stem Cells in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Dr. Philippe Leboulch, MD, Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology at the University of Paris, and colleagues reported that a common diabetes drug may aid in destroying remnant stem cells in chronic myelogenous leukemia. The research team said that they discovered some remnant leukemia stem cells that are not destroyed by the usual tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Following that they added that a standard therapy of common diabetes drugs such as pioglitazone may totally annihilate the remnant leukemia stem cells.

They continued saying that after trying a combination of diabetes drug therapy, the leukemia stem cells could no longer be detected. There was also one case where they could not detect any remnant leukemia stem cell after the patient stopped consuming  the diabetes drug for 4 and a half years. Prior to their findings, the research team explained that less than 10% of chronic myelogenous leukemia patients obtain a complete molecular response. Most of them still have low levels of the leukemia cells. This put them at a possible risk of relapse. In other words, they have to take tyrosine kinase inhibitors for life.

The research team continued explaining that the chronic myelogenous leukemia cells are highly dependent on a certain protein called STAT5. The usual tyrosine kinase inhibitors do not have the ability to reduce the STAT5 levels in the remnant leukemia stem cells. In this case, the common diabetes drug called pioglitazone can reduce the STAT5 levels. The underlying mechanism behind the STAT5 reduction stems from the activation of a certain pathway in which STAT5 happens to be in it. Through this mechanism, the STAT5 levels can be lowered to a point where the remnant leukemia stem cells can no longer survive. The research team also studied other diabetes drugs that activate the same pathway and they discovered that these drugs had similar effects as pioglitazone. The research team highly recommended that pioglitazone should be included as a combination therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors to fully annihilate all remaining chronic myelogenous leukemia stem cells. 

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