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Exploring the role of a novel tumour suppressor in leukaemia

Leukaemia is the most common cancer to affect children and teenagers, accounting for approximately 1 in 3 cancers. Despite much progress being made as to the treatment of these cancers, certain subsets of leukaemia maintain a poor survival outcome, resulting in the need to develop novel treatments.

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


  • Start Date

    1 October 2018

  • Duration

    12 months

  • Grant Amount



Cancer arises from a cell that begins to grow out of control. Various faults in the cell’s DNA “mutations” are known to drive this process and can vary between different cancers. A subset of leukaemias with a very poor prognosis have been found to have mutations in a gene called MLL where the gene fuses to various other genes to create a new protein that is known to cause the cancer.

The team found that in this subset of leukaemia, in addition to having fusions in the MLL gene, the cancer cells have very low levels of another, previously unidentified protein. Understanding a potential role for this protein in leukaemia may reveal avenues for the development of much needed new therapies.

Potential impact

Acute childhood leukaemia containing fusions of the MLL gene, regrettably, has a very poor survival outcome. This project holds the potential to significantly increase understanding of how childhood leukaemia arises and give important clues as to new treatment approaches to target these cancers.

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.