Enzyme Found in Baker’s Yeast Could Help Treat Some Forms of Leukemia

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Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer that typically affects children under the age of five. The American Cancer Society estimates doctors will diagnose another 5,970 new cases this year, and 1,440 people will die from ALL. This type of cancer attacks the lymphoblasts, immature white blood cells in bone marrow.


For years, treatment for ALL has started with chemotherapy and often progresses to stem cell transplantation, radiation therapy, and targeted drugs.


One treatment that doctors have used for decades is the application of the L-asparaginase enzyme. This enzyme is isolated from Escherichia coli and Erwinia chrysanthemi bacteria, and can achieve a high rate of remission. However, it has the risk of causing mild to severe allergic responses in about 25 percent of patients.


Researchers have begun the process of seeking a less toxic enzyme to help improve remission rates. The study, published in Scientific Reports, began by looking at several fungi that also secrete the L-asparaginase enzyme. They found that common baker’s yeast had a similar enzyme and carried less risk of an immune response thanks to a composition similar to human cells.


Researchers tested the effectiveness of the yeast enzyme against the E. coli enzyme. When added to human leukemia cells, the yeast enzyme killed roughly 70-80 percent of the MOLT4 (asparagine) cells, while the E. coli enzyme killed about 90 percent. Even though the yeast enzyme had a lower cell death rate, doctors might consider it for use in patients who are likely to have an immune response. 

Leukemia Qualify Your Child for Social Security Disability

Children with certain childhood diseases, like leukemia, are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and might be entitled to Social Security disability benefits under their parents’ contributions. To find out more about your child’s eligibility and how to file a claim on their behalf, the Disability Help Group is here to help.


Call us at 800-800-2009 to speak with one of our disability advocates today for free. Or, click here to see some of our frequently asked questions.

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