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Characterization of the changes that take place in cancer cells under microgravity conditions, in order to develop innovative treatments for childhood leukemia

Chief researcher: Dr. Yehudit Birger
Partners: Hematology-oncology division at Schneider Children's Medical Center, The Educational center at Schneider, the Felsenstein Medical Research Institute, Tel Aviv University, Space Pharma.

Leukemia is the most common form of cancer among children. It requires prolonged, aggressive treatment. The currently-existing treatment is for the most part effective, however its efficacy comes at a cost of high toxicity, which causes long-term and short-term side effects. To find an alternative to the existing treatments, the Hematology-Oncology Division at the Schneider Center has decided to examine how microgravity affects T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells (T-ALL)by sending the cells into space in a miniature laboratory. The experiment’s findings will be compared to an identical experiment which is going to be conducted on Earth while monitoring the differences in the genetic expressions within the cells. Since preliminary experiments in microgravity indicated hypersensitivity to cancer cells, the research results might contribute toward understanding of the cellular mechanisms affected by microgravity. Such an understanding will be helpful to the way innovative treatments will be developed, which can provide a solution for aggressive, durable cancer treatments, reducing the side effects of the currently common treatments.
The experiment was carried out together with the child patients at the hematology-oncology division at Schneider Center.

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