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Understanding MLL leukaemia and identifying targets which could increase survival

Dr Clynes is studying the biology of a group of hard-to-treat leukaemias. This research could ultimately lead to new treatments to give children with this leukaemia the best chance of survival.

Project Details

  • Project Title

    Exploring the role of a novel tumour suppressor in leukaemia

  • Lead Researcher

    Dr David Clynes

  • Research Centre

    The MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine

  • City & Institution Postcode

    Oxford

  • Start Date

    23 April 2019

  • Duration

    12 months

  • Grant Amount

    £50,000

Overview

Leukaemia is the most common cancer to affect children and teenagers, accounting for approximately 1 in 3 cancers. Overall, the survival rates for leukaemia in children have greatly improved. However, some groups of leukaemias are still very difficult to treat. Leukaemias with a mutation in a gene called MLL can be very aggressive and resistant to even the latest therapies. This sadly means that children with this type of leukaemia have a lower chance of survival.

Dr David Clynes has found that MLL-mutated leukaemias also have very low amounts of a particular protein he’s been studying. This means this protein might normally help to prevent the development of this aggressive type of leukaemia. Learning more about this protein may reveal new ways that this type of leukaemia could be treated.

In this project, Dr Clynes will investigate the role of this protein in MLL-mutated leukaemias. He will do this by studying leukaemia cells grown in the lab, and samples donated by patients. He first aims to find out why these leukaemias have low levels of this protein. He will then look at how this helps cancer cells to survive and multiply. Finally, he will study if low levels of the protein are actually helping to cause mutations in the DNA which lead to leukaemia.

What difference will this project make?

Childhood leukaemias with mutations in the MLL gene can be very resistant to existing treatments. Dr Clynes’ research project will increase our understanding of how this form of leukaemia develops. This could eventually lead to new treatments to give children with these cancers the best possible chance of survival.

About the research team

The proposed research team is in an ideal and unique position to complete this proposed project. David Clynes was awarded a Children with Cancer post-doctoral research fellowship which started in 2017. His previous and current work has made a great contribution to understanding the molecular underpinnings of a range of cancers often associated with childhood.

Professor Thomas Milne is an international leader in the study of MLL fusion proteins (MLL-FPs) and the role they play in driving leukaemias and has developed valuable tools and expertise that will allow us to study these cancers

Professor Anindita Roy is a clinician scientist and international leader in the study of paediatric leukaemia, in particular understanding the origins of infant acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). As a clinician Professor Roy will provide access and supervision on the use of patient samples.

Together this research team has the breadth of knowledge and expertise to ensure this research project is a success.