An established theory of childhood leukaemia development proposes that the immune systems of children who are not exposed to the normal range of early childhood illnesses respond differently when faced with an infection in later years, increasing their risk of developing leukaemia. Dr Williams will examine the mechanisms that may underlie this abnormal reaction.
Leukaemia is not usually a hereditary disease but inherited genetic mutations predisposing to leukaemia have been identified. Dr Fitzgibbon is taking advantage of new technology to identify inherited mutations in family groups where there are multiple cases of familial leukaemia. This will in future allow routine testing in families where a familial factor is suspected.