Malak Yahia Qattan

King Saud University, KSA

Title: Stem cells microenvironment and its effects on leukemia treatment


Malak Yahia Qattan has completed her PhD in Leukemia and Stem Cells Research in 2014 from University of Manchester, UK. She is a Vice Director of Health Sciences Department in King Saud University, Riyadh. Her research focuses on the investigation of mechanisms of gene regulation and cancer biology research. Her long term interests are in investigating the mechanisms by which clinically relevant drugs mediate their therapeutic effects in order to improve available treatments and to develop novel pharmacologically beneficial approaches.


Although the survival rates of 80% in Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) are remarkable achievement, the 20% of affected children are facing the risk of death and toxicity of the treatment is significant. The drugs used in ALL are anthracyclines and steroids. The exact mechanisms of action of those drugs are not well understood and significant proportion of children develops drug resistance. Moreover, it has recently been described that microenvironment can also contribute to leukemia cell survival and protect leukemia cells from the cytotoxic effect of drugs. Increased understanding of the mechanisms that lead to 80% curable rate will help bring curable rate to this level in other cancer types as well. So the research aimed to better understand of the role played by Glucocorticoid Receptor (GR) in improving the treatment and the role of bone marrow environment in inducing resistance. We have used ALL cell lines in the absence and presence of conditioned media (CM) obtained from bone marrow cells thus mimicking clinical settings. Our results demonstrate possibility of alternative pathways being utilized for apoptosis when both drugs are used. Furthermore, data indicates that Glucocorticoids (GC) induces autophagy as well as apoptosis in leukemia cells. In addition, Receptor Interacting Protein 1(RIP-1) is significantly repressed in cells grown in CM media and it has been linked to not only apoptosis, but also with other forms of cells death including autophagy and necroptosis. That may highlight new targets of glucocorticoids and open new therapeutic possibilities.