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Study Finds Obesity Impairs Leukemia Treatment Response

Last Updated: September 23, 2009.


Animal study shows that fat cells prevent apoptosis induced by the first-line drug vincristine

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Obesity may directly impair the efficacy of leukemia treatment, according to an animal study published online Sept. 22 in Cancer Research.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity may directly impair the efficacy of leukemia treatment, according to an animal study published online Sept. 22 in Cancer Research.

James W. Behan, of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and colleagues injected obese and control mice with acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells and treated them with either vincristine or vehicle.

Compared to vehicle, the researchers found that vincristine was associated with improved survival independently from obesity. However, they also found that obesity was associated with an impaired response to vincristine. Among treated mice, seven of 12 obese mice developed progressive leukemia compared to only three of 12 control mice, and one obese mouse developed progressive leukemia before receiving the final dose of vincristine.

"Adipocytes prevented chemotherapy-induced apoptosis, and this was associated with increased expression of the two pro-survival signals Bcl-2 and Pim-2," the authors write. "These findings highlight the role of the adipocyte in fostering leukemia chemotherapy resistance, and may help explain the increased leukemia relapse rate in obese children and adults. Given the growing prevalence of obesity worldwide, these effects are likely to have increasing importance to cancer treatment."

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