Henry Winter
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Oxford researchers pioneering new drugs for blood cancer

Henry Winter
Posted by
04 Apr 2013

University of Oxford scientists have been granted £1.4 million by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to develop a “new generation” of blood cancer drugs. 

The normal functioning of healthy blood cells is dependent on interactions between different proteins inside the cell. Mutations that lead to leukaemia and lymphoma cells often cause these interactions to form inappropriately, giving the cancerous cells innapropriate growth and survival signals.

The Oxford team has developed new technology to select and develop drugs that can interfere with these malfunctioning protein interactions inside cancer cells. The grant from Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research will allow the researchers to develop new drugs for patients with a range of blood cancers.

Professor Terry Rabbitts, who is leading the team at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, said, “We have created molecules called antibody fragments that can inhibit interactions between mutated proteins inside cancer cells. A new generation of targeted drugs could use this technology to prevent blood cancer cells from functioning.”

The researchers will use antibody fragments to create drugs to initially target three different mutated proteins found in a range of blood cancers, including proteins called LMO2 and MLL linked to childhood leukaemia.

Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “Treatment for acute types of leukaemia still mainly consists of high doses of chemotherapy. While this can be effective, especially in children, long term effects of the drugs can be debilitating. By targeting the interactions of proteins inside the cancer cell itself, more effective drugs could be developed for a whole range of blood cancers in the future.”

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research currently has over £7.6 million invested in 20 blood cancer research projects at the University of Oxford.