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What’s Old is New Again

Stowers researchers repurpose classic chemotherapy drug to overcome cancer therapy resistance

Last spring as most news was focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of Stowers scientists, instead, were reporting their findings from a research project that may provide a promising new strategy to overcome drug resistance in leukemia, using targeted doses of the widely-used chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. The findings are the result of a decade-spanning collaborative effort among researchers at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research , Children’s Mercy , the University of Kansas Cancer Center , and other institutions, evolving from studies in Linheng Li’s laboratory at Stowers where first author John Perry, PhD, completed his postdoctoral fellowship.


The researchers found that low doses of doxorubicin, a standard treatment for several types of cancer including leukemia, inhibit two molecular pathways, which work closely together to promote tumor growth and resistance to therapy. The team also found that low-dose but not high-dose doxorubicin activated anticancer immunity against therapy-resistant leukemia stem cells, an unexpected and novel discovery.

The research holds promise as a more effective strategy to overcome cancer therapy resistance and stimulate immunity that can be used in combination with other cancer therapies including chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy for patients with leukemia and other types of cancer. Low-dose doxorubicin also avoids the harsh side effects of high-dose doxorubicin, potentially offering patients a better quality of life.

Read More at Stowers.Org