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Historical marker

Conquest - Summer 2012

Researchers discover connection between platelet count and cancer

As early as 1867, doctors noticed that cancer patients are at high risk for developing blood clots. Recently, 
MD Anderson professor Anil Sood, M.D., and colleagues discovered an explanation and a vicious cycle: The body reacts to tumors by producing high amounts of platelets, which then feed tumor growth.

Sood found in a Phase I/II clinical trial that treatment of ovarian cancer patients with siltuximab, an antibody to the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6, sharply reduced platelet counts during a three-week period.

“Our collaborative study not only identified a mechanism that explains platelet count elevation, but also connects this state, called thrombocytosis, to the severity of ovarian cancer,” says Sood, professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and the Department of Cancer Biology.

More research is needed to understand the connection and perhaps take advantage of it to treat people. Platelet levels also may serve as biomarkers for detecting ovarian and other cancers.

Reported in the Feb. 16, 2012, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Read more Frontline: Latest research advances

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