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Cancer Treatment May Also Help Symptoms of COPD

Posted on July 27, 2018


A drug treatment used for certain cancers may have an additional benefit: protection against lung injury caused by cigarettes.

A study published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology outlines the discovery.

The medication, Plerixafor, is used to trigger the release of an increased number of stem cells known as hematopoietic progenitor cells, or HPCs, from bone marrow. HPCs are stem cells that have the ability to develop into mature red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets.

These forerunners of blood cells are often used to treat blood-related cancers, such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that affects the plasma.

HPCs are also used to treat sickle-cell anemia.

Stem cells are the most basic building blocks of the body; they can develop into many types of cells and also have the ability to repair damaged tissue. Stem cells can also regenerate without limit.

Other research projects have found that when the number of HPCs in the blood is low, patients had more severe emphysema and the lungs were unable to repair damage related to cigarette smoking.

Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, that affects over 11 million Americans, according to the American Lung Association.

People living with COPD experience chronic inflammation of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. Other symptoms include coughing, wheezing, high blood pressure and fatigue.

Nearly 90 percent of those living with COPD developed the condition as a result of smoking cigarettes.

Other causes of COPD include exposure to secondhand smoke and environmental lung irritants. Research has also linked pregnant women who smoke to the development of COPD in babies.

To learn more about the impact of low HPC levels, researchers analyzed how Plerixafor affected the circulation of these blood stem cells and how these stem cells affected lung function.

Using mice, the researchers created a test group that was exposed to cigarette smoke five days a week for 22 weeks. This group was regularly injected with Plerixafor.

They also created a control group that was exposed to cigarette smoke but were not treated with the drug.

After testing, the researchers harvested stem cells from both groups of mice and found that the control group had lower numbers of HPCs compared to the test group that was treated with Plerixafor.

After two weeks of Plerixafor treatment, the test group had higher numbers of HPCs than the group that was not treated.

The results are encouraging and may mean new uses for this already FDA-approved drug.

Stem cells have been in the spotlight in recent years regarding COPD.

“The ability of stem cells to repair damaged tissue and reduce inflammation is critical in treating COPD and other lung conditions,” said Dr. Joel Singer, a New York physician.

Singer uses personal cells to treat patients living with COPD, emphysema and asthma. Patients who undergo treatment with Singer have their cells collected through a specialized form of liposuction.

“Once the cells are collected, they are separated out from the blood and other tissue and then returned to the body via intravenous treatments or inhalation,” Singer said.

After being returned to the body, the cells begin repairing injured lung tissue.

“Most patients who undergo personal cell therapy for their COPD see improvements within two to three months,” Singer said.

These patients are able to return to activity and see improvements in their quality of life, according to Singer.



American Physiological Society. “Stem cell therapy drug may protect against smoke-related COPD symptoms: Stem cell mobilization protects lung function in mouse study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2018.

American Lung Association. How Serious Is COPD? 12 December 2017.



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