Prof Tessa Holyoake recognised for ground-breaking research into CML

Issued: Thu, 02 Mar 2017 13:51:00 GMT

Prof Tessa Holyoake, Professor of Experimental Haematology at the University of Glasgow’s Paul O'Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre, has been awarded the prestigious Rowley Prize by the International CML Foundation (iCMLf).

The annual prize is awarded each year by the iCMLf to celebrate people who have made outstanding lifetime contributions to the understanding of the biology of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).

Image of Professor Tessa Holyoake

Prof Holyoake’s award acknowledges her outstanding research into CML and was awarded to her in recognition of her ground-breaking work understanding and targeting CML stem cells.

Nominations for the award are sent from the CML community and the prize winner is decided by a panel of iCMLf advisors and directors, along with the previous prize winner.

Professor Holyoake will receive her prize medal at the annual John Goldman Conference on CML in October, where she will give a keynote lecture on her achievements and perspectives.

Prof Holyoake’s world-leading research is on the cancer stem cell, working from the model of CML. Together with her interdisciplinary research group in Glasgow, she has developed laboratory methods to purify the cells of interest from leukaemia patients and from normal donors, allowing side-by-side comparisons of leukemic versus normal stem cells. These comparisons include global analyses of gene expression and protein expression.

In 2002 she was the first to demonstrate that CML stem cells are completely insensitive to killing by first generation kinase inhibitor, imatinib. These findings published in Blood highlighted that kinase inhibitors alone would be unlikely to cure CML.

Her work since then has focused on the identification of key stem cell survival pathways that may be manipulated in a selective manner. Recently she began to explore high throughput drug screening against the purified cancer stem cells hoping to find drugs that rapidly kill the cancer stem cells but leave normal stem cells intact.

A recent study, led by Prof Holyoake analysed both CML and normal blood stem cells and found two proteins that were key to the survival of CML stem cells. The group then developed a drug combination to simultaneously target these critical proteins and kill the CML stem cells, while largely sparing normal cells. This research, published in Nature, although at an early stage, is a fantastic example of precision medicine in action.

A spokesperson for the iCMLf said: “We congratulate all winners on their prizes and thank them for their unique commitment to improving the outcomes for patients with CML all around the world.” or // 0141 330 6557/4831

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