Current leukaemia projects

Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood. It is the most common type of childhood cancer, with almost 500 new cases every year in the UK.

There are two main types of childhood leukaemia. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) accounts for around 80 per cent of cases. Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) accounts for most of the remaining cases.

Investment in research has transformed childhood leukaemia from a disease that was almost universally fatal 60 years ago to one that is now survived by almost 90 per cent of patients.

ALL now has a survival rate of 92 per cent. Our investment in the development of minimal residual disease technology helped to bring survival to this level. Treatment for ALL, however, involves one of the most punishing treatment regimes of all the childhood cancers, requiring two to three years of toxic chemotherapy. We continue to fund research aimed at refining and developing treatments that could offer hope to the remaining eight per cent of children failed by current treatments and that are kinder and less punishing than existing treatments.

AML has one of the lowest survival rates of all the childhood cancers, with almost one third of young patients still succumbing to the disease. New treatments are urgently needed to offer new hope to young AML patients,

Read more: Acute lymphoblastic leukaemiaAcute myeloid leukaemia

We are funding a number of projects aimed at improving the outlook for children with leukaemia:

Investigating uncharted genomic sequences in childhood leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 10 October 2016
Professor Christine Harrison, Newcastle University

Sequencing the unsequenceable: investigating uncharted genomic sequences in childhood leukaemia: around 10 per cent of the human genome remains unexplored, with some of the uncharted regions believed to play a role in the development of childhood cancer. In this pilot project, Professor Harrison and Dr Sarra Ryan are developing revolutionary, state-of-the-art technologies to explore this region for the first time, to improve our understanding of how childhood cancer develops and how it may be prevented. Amount of grant: £55,022 | Date of award: July 2016 Background The human genome – our ...
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Immunotherapy for relapsed paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 22 September 2015
Professor Persis Amrolia, UCL Institute of Child Health, London

Stem cell transplant is used as a treatment of last resort in young patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) whose disease has failed to respond to or relapsed after chemotherapy. Only half of patients undergoing transplant are cured long-term, and disease relapse is the major cause of treatment failure. Professor Amrolia is pioneering the development of a new immunotherapy approach to treat relapsed ALL. If successful, this should not only improve survival but also reduce toxicity and improve quality of life for children with this disease.

Amount of grant: £300,000 | ...
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Refining our knowledge about the genetic causes of leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 15 September 2015
Dr Elspeth Payne, UCL Cancer Institute

A large number of genetic mutations have been identified in childhood AML, with any one child having between 5 and 20 mutations. The role played by these mutations, alone and in combination, is not fully understood. This project will develop a model system that will facilitate the study of these mutations. Ultimately this will aid the development of more effective treatments.

Amount of grant: £52,500 | Date of award: May 2015 Overview Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is the second most common form of childhood leukaemia. It has a substantially worse outlook than the more common form, acute lymphoblastic...
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Infections and the development of childhood leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 14 September 2015
Dr Ian Hampson and Dr Lynne Hampson, University of Manchester

Exposure to infection has long being implicated as a cause of childhood leukaemia but no specific infection has ever been identified. Dr Hampson is using new and unique methodology to try to pinpoint the causal infection. This could have important implications for prevention as well as having diagnostic and prognostic value. 

Amount of grant: £190,204 | Date of award: May 2015  Overview The proposed work will make an important contribution by looking intensively and systematically for evidence of a role for infectious agents in ALL aetiology.
Positive results would have a sign...
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Molecular tracking of treatment response in childhood AML

Isabelle Gore 14 September 2015
Dr Richard Dillon, King’s College London

The use of MRD testing has helped improve the outlook for children with ALL by enabling treatment to be tailored to each individual child. The technique has been less successful in AML, with detectable genetic changes identifiable in only 60 per cent of children. The key aim of this project is to characterise the genetic mutations present in the remaining 40 per cent of cases, who currently have a worse prognosis. This will enable improved treatment strategies.

Amount of grant: £238,325 | Date of award: May 2015 Overview Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is the second most common form of childhood leuk...
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Understanding the genetic changes leading to childhood leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 10 September 2015
Professor Tariq Enver, UCL Cancer Institute & Professor Shai Izraeli, Sheba Medical Center, Israel

Cure rates for B cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia have increased over the past few decades but a large minority of children still die from their disease and those who survive may be left with long-term side effects. This project will take forward our understanding of the complex genetic changes underlying this disease, with the hope that this will lead to the development of new drugs that may successfully treat patients but with reduced side effects.

Amount of grant: £250,000 | Date of award: June 2014 Overview B cell acute lymphoblastic l...
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Investigating the onset of leukaemia in children with Noonan syndrome

Isabelle Gore 03 July 2015
Professor Anthony Whetton, University of Manchester

Children with the genetic disorder Noonan syndrome (NS) have a high risk of developing leukaemia. Professor Whetton is examining differences in the blood stem cells of NS patients who did and did not develop leukaemia to increase our understanding of what causes a blood stem cell to become leukaemic and find targets for treatment. Not only will this offer the opportunity to develop new treatments, but it will contribute significantly to knowledge about the mechanisms underlying leukaemia development.

Amount of grant: £234,527 | Date of award: June 2014
Overview Juvenile myelomonocytic ...
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Developing models to test new drug treatments for childhood leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 11 May 2015
Dr Owen Williams, UCL Institute of Child Health

Despite improvements in survival, leukaemia remains one of the leading causes of death in childhood.

Dr Williams is focusing on the molecular biology of childhood leukaemia in order to identify new treatment approaches. He is working on the development of models that can accurately predict how certain childhood leukaemias respond to a new set of drugs. Ultimately this will improve the treatment options for children with leukaemia.

Amount of grant: £242,074 | Date of award: June 2014 Overview Leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer. Advances in treatment mean that more than 80 per cen...
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Antibody development for safer stem cell transplant in acute myeloid leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 26 June 2014
Professor Persis Amrolia, UCL Institute of Child Health

Stem cell transplant is often used to treat patients with acute myeloid leukaemia but the intensive treatment used pre-transplant to destroy the patient’s bone marrow has serious side effects. Professor Amrolia is pioneering a new way of destroying the bone marrow, using specially designed antibodies to create space for the donor stem cells. If successful, this approach should make it possible to carry out transplants in a much safer way.

Amount of grant: £267,162 | Date of award: June 2014 Overview Stem cell transplant (SCT) is an important but high-risk procedure often used in the ...
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Management of neurological side-effects in children with cancer

Isabelle Gore 26 June 2014
Dr Christina Halsey, University of Glasgow

Children with leukaemia and other cancers receive chemotherapy targeted to the brain to prevent disease recurrence at this site. This is a vital part of treatment but can cause damage to normal brain tissue, leading to reductions in IQ, attention span and working memory. Dr Halsey and colleagues are developing new tests to help predict which children are at increased risk of these brain-related complications. These tests may also be used to discover new ways of treating or preventing this devastating complication of childhood cancer treatment.

Amount of grant: £166,088 | Date of award: June 2014 ...
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