An international group of scientists, including some in Ireland, have made a number of discoveries around an aggressive hard to cure form of leukaemia that could lead to better treatments.
The research into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) has revealed how the cancer beats healthy cells to resources, effectively pushing them out of the bone marrow.
A separate study used a form of microscopy to record what happens when the two forms of cells compete for space.
The research involved a team including Professor Ken Duffy, Director of the Hamilton Institute Maynooth University, as well as colleagues in London, Glasgow and Melbourne.
The first paper, published in Nature Communications, found that as the AML progresses the cancer produced new cells at a regular speed.
This continued even when there was no more space in the bone marrow, eventually leading to the ousting of healthy and cancerous cells from it.
This was a surprise because previously scientists though AML shut down the production of health blood in the bone marrow.
The second paper, published in Cell Stem Cell, filmed this process happening in mice using intravital microscopy.
The filming captured the cancerous cells slowly killing healthy blood cells, the cells that support blood and the vessels connected to blood stem cells.
The researchers found that by preventing the destruction of these vessels, they could stop the AML from killing out the blood stem cells.
"Our findings suggest that if we can target treatments that protect the rare blood vessels that are associated with the blood stem cells than we can improve the therapeutic options available to those suffering from AML and, perhaps, other forms of leukaemia," said Professor Duffy.
AML affects one in 200 men and one in 250 women, and has a cure rate of 5-15% in those older than 60 years.
As there have been no effective new treatments over the past 30 years, there is a strong need for fresh ones to developed.