Clinicians at CHLA have noted that obese children with acute leukemia benefit less from chemotherapy than normal weight children. Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and physiology & biophysics, Keck School of Medicine of USC and colleagues at The Saban Research Institute of CHLA are working to find out why. With support from the SC CTSI, they showed that fat cells substantially impair the ability of a first-line chemo- therapy agent to kill leukemia cells in the laboratory. Thus, the fat cells themselves may protect leukemia cells from chemotherapy. Mittelman has secured funding from the NIH to study how this happens. His long-term goal is to conduct clinical studies to see whether and how treating obesity can improve survival for children with leukemia. “This research shines a light on how cancer cells avoid chemotherapy and helps us better understand how to beat cancer in children,” said Brent Polk, MD, professor of pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of The Saban Research Institute.

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