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Sunday 24th June 2018

Scientists find a way to kill leukaemia cells

29th April 2010

Southampton-based scientists say they have found a quicker and more effective way of killing leukaemia cells.


Researchers from the charity-funded Simon Flavell Research Laboratory used a compound from the common gypsophila plant to break down the membrane of the leukaemia cells, allowing antibodies with toxins to penetrate and kill the cells.

Despite the breakthrough, the team concedes it is unclear what effect the treatment would have on humans.

Any drug developed, they say, would take at least three years and cost millions to develop, though there has been interest from pharmaceutical companies.

Husband and wife team Dr David and Dr Bee Flavell set up the laboratory in Southampton General Hospital 20 years ago when their son Simon died of leukaemia and believe the discovery could open the way for new kinds of treatment.

Dr David Flavell said: “This will allow us to do things I think which we were not able to do before in patients. It will open up a whole new revolution in this kind of antibody therapy - if we can make it work in people.”

The team collaborated with scientists in Berlin and presented their findings at a major cancer conference organised by the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington.

A compound from the gypsophila plant called saponin creates holes in the cells after being absorbed. Special anti-bodies with toxins attached can then be introduced which penetrate the leukaemia cells and kill them much faster.

Some 500 children a year are diagnosed with leukaemia.


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