Bone marrow continually makes blood stem cells, which turn into new blood cells to replace spent ones, but the process is not perfect: Some blood stem cells can develop into abnormal versions, although the immune system usually stamps them out. In acute myeloid leukemia, however, the immune system seems unable to recognize malformed blood cells, which proliferate quickly and become cancerous.
Researchers from Stanford University recently uncovered a mechanism by which these leukemia cells elude the immune system. As described in two papers in Cell, the cancerous pretenders use the same "ID" that blood stem cells use to travel around the body. Their findings may not only have implications for the treatment of this form of leukemia but possibly for other cancers, as well.