Dr Adam Mead from the University of Oxford has won a prestigious research grant from Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to investigate why some patients relapse after entering remission from their leukaemia.
Dr Mead has been recognised for his outstanding work within this field, after being awarded a ‘Bennett Fellowship’ by the charity. The new £450,000 grant will fund his research to explore the potential links between two common mutated genes in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) patients and increased risk of relapse.
Around 2,200 adults are diagnosed with AML each year, with one third carrying a mutation to a gene called FLT3. Leukaemia cells with combinations of genetic mutations which include damage to the FLT3 gene are very effective at surviving chemotherapy and going on to rapidly multiply in the blood.
Consequently, even if they enter remission following chemotherapy, the leukaemia returns in most patients with this faulty gene. AML is much harder to treat second time around.
Dr Mead and his team will investigate the links between faults in FLT3 and another associated gene called Runx1. By looking at how these two mutated genes work together to rapidly spread malignant cells in the blood, the researchers may be able to devise ways to target the process.
Dr Mead said: “This research will help us understand the way that faulty genes support the growth and spread of leukaemia cells in AML patients. We can then develop specific treatments or new drugs to prevent people from relapsing following chemotherapy.”
Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “Relapse rates in AML patients with these faulty genes are extremely high and they have a poor chance of survival. Once we understand how these leukaemia cells spread and survive chemotherapy, we will be in a position to create drugs that prevent patients from relapsing.”
The Bennett Fellowship is awarded by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to outstanding young researchers to help them become established as lead investigators in blood cancers.