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Cambridge scientists awarded £240,000 to personalise treatment for rare lymphoma

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
Posted by
04 Jul 2016

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have been awarded over £240,000 to investigate the role a specific gene fault plays in the development of splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL) - a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The grant awarded by Bloodwise aims to help doctors to better predict at diagnosis the outlook of patients with SMZL, and to develop more personalised treatments.

SMZL is a rare form of cancer of the blood, affecting a group of white blood cells in the spleen. The spleen forms part of the body’s lymphatic system, which fights against disease and infection. 

In the UK, 30% of SMZL patients die of the disease within 5 years of diagnosis. Currently, it is not possible to predict the clinical outcome of patients with SMZL at diagnosis, making it difficult for doctors to select appropriate treatment.

Professor Ming-Qing Du and his research team, who are based within the Department of Pathology, at the University of Cambridge, previously identified that an error in a gene known as KLF2, is the most frequent genetic abnormality in SMZL. The team also discovered that the KLF2 fault is often associated with errors in several other genes.

The group of research scientists will now investigate the stepwise accumulation of the various gene faults and the effects these have on the cellular machinery that lead to the development of SMZL. The team will determine specific genes whose activity is regulated by KLF2, allowing them to map out the molecular pathways in SMZL development.

Professor Ming-Qing Du, who is heading the project at the University of Cambridge, said: “A greater understanding of how SMZL starts and develops is key to the creation of new, tailored life-saving drugs. This kind of precision treatment is desperately needed to improve the clinical outcomes of patients with this type of lymphoma.”

Dr Matt Kaiser, Head of Research at Bloodwise, said: “It is important to understand all the differences in disease biology that can affect a patient’s outlook, so that they can have the most effective treatment available. This is an incredibly exciting project that could lead to a transformation in the way doctors treat many SMZL patients.”

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