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How blood cancer "recharges"

A new study has uncovered how blood cancer “steals” parts of surrounding healthy bone marrow cells in order to thrive.

The researchers found healthy bone marrow stromal cells were made to transfer their power-generating mitochondria to neighbouring cancer cells, effectively “recharging” the acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and supporting the leukaemia to grow.

AML has been found to act in a parasitic way by first generating oxygen-deprived conditions in the bone marrow, which then stimulates the transfer of healthy mitochondria from the non-cancerous cells to the leukaemia cells.

The study, published in Blood, also identified how and why the mitochondria are transferred and discusses the potential impact this could have on future treatment and study of cancer.

Study author Stuart Rushworth said: “Our results provide a first in the study of cancer mitochondrial transfer mechanism. We have clearly shown that the cancer cell itself drives transfer by increasing oxidative stress in the neighbouring non-malignant donor cells.”

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