Leukaemia Research Centre to receive €3m EU grant

A University of Glasgow cancer research centre is to receive a €3m EU grant to begin clinical trials on Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) and other blood cancers.‌‌‌Tessa Holyoake 450

The Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre is to receive a European Research Council grant, to study “Game-changing Precision Medicine for Curing All Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN)”.

Led by Professor Tessa Holyoake, the grant will enable the team to study drug resistant leukaemia cells and use precision medicine to better target them. They hope that their work will reveal more accurate ways to target cancerous stem cells, and potentially lead to drugs that could cure some CML patients.

Current therapy for CML is with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) which effectively hold back the disease, but do not cure it. If the therapy is stopped, the leukaemia relapses in the majority of patients, requiring CML patients to remain on treatment for their lifetime. These drugs, as well as being expensive to administer, can cause a number of side effects including diabetes and vascular problems

Professor Holyoake, Professor of Experimental Haematology, said: “Despite decades of research, developing ways to overcome drug resistance in cancer is the most challenging bottleneck for curative therapies. This is because, in some forms of cancer, the cancer stem cells from which the diseases arise are constantly evolving in order to survive.

“While significant advances in the management of these diseases have been made using life-long and expensive TKIs, patients are rarely cured of their disease. My goal is to change the way we study the Leukaemia stem cells that persist in some patients as a means of delivering more effective precision medicine that is a “game-changer” leading to therapy-free remission and cure.”

Led by Professor Holyoake, the team will apply an innovative strategy, ChAMPioN, to study the response of the Leukaemia stem cells to TKI in pre-clinical laboratory models and directly in patients with MPN - up to the resolution of an individual stem cell.

The team say that this work will reveal, for the first time, the molecular and clonal evolution of Leukaemia stem cells during TKI therapies, thus enabling the development of more accurate predictions of TKI efficacy and resistance, and ultimately rational approaches for curative drug therapies.

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk // 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

First published: 26 June 2017

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