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Bloodwise scientist’s work recognised with prestigious medal

Bloodwise
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Updated 08 Nov 2017

Bloodwise-funded scientist Dr Cristina Lo Celso has been announced as the winner of the Foulkes Foundation Medal 2017.

Scientist Dr Lo Celso photographed in a laboratory

Dr Cristina Lo Celso, a Reader in Stem Cell Biology at Imperial College London, has been announced as the winner of the Foulkes Foundation Medal 2017.

The Foulkes Medal is awarded every two years to a rising star within biomedical research for contributing important and significant impacts to the field before, or in, their first independent position.

Dr Lo Celso uses stem cells to study how leukaemia develops and relapses.

Leukaemia affects adults and children and has one of the highest cancer mortality rates, partially due to its high rate of recurrence. Dr Lo Celso’s research hopes to provide better treatments for people with this devastating disease, with her developments set to be put into clinical practice.

She has made great advances in looking at the way in which leukaemia cells move around the body, and why the body’s bone-making cells disappear during the development of the disease. Her research aims to optimise bone marrow transplantation and treatments for leukaemia. Bloodwise has funded her work since 2012.

Dr Lo Celso said: “Receiving this prestigious medal is a real honour. For my research to be recognised by the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Foulkes Foundation is incredibly inspiring, and will only increase my determination to work towards improving therapies and learn how to prevent disease.”

“To have taken my work to a few short steps away from clinical use is incredibly rewarding, both personally and professionally. Knowing that life changing impacts for currently suffering patients are within sight is the biggest push for me. I am determined to continue developing techniques that will reduce the relapse rate of leukaemia, with the ultimate goal to eliminate this aggressive disease forever.”

Scientist Dr Lo Celso photographed in a laboratory

One of Dr Lo Celso’s initial projects with Bloodwise was to find out where in the body leukaemia starts, where cancer cells hide during chemotherapy and how they grow again to regenerate leukaemia after treatment has finished.

She is now looking at how a type of treatment called immunotherapy can be improved. Immunotherapy can direct a population of immune cells that normally recognise infectious agents, such as bacteria, to recognise cancer cells and kill them. These immune cells are called cytotoxic T-cells. But leukaemia can fight back by recruiting a set of T-cells called ‘regulatory T-cells’, which are able to block the killer immune cells.

The team are using powerful microscopy to analyse the evolving interactions between acute myeloid leukaemia cells and T cells as the disease develops. Once they understand these processes, the researchers can exploit the immune cells to win the fight against leukaemia.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research at Bloodwise, said: “Bloodwise is committed to funding world-leading scientists and enabling them to carry out research that will make a real difference to treatment for people with blood cancer. We’re delighted that Dr Lo Celso has been recognised with this prestigious medal. It is very much deserved.”

The medal will be presented at the Academy of Medical Sciences' AGM on 5 December. Dr Lo Celso will also deliver a lecture on her research and life as a leading biomedical scientist to the Academy’s prestigious Fellowship.

The Foulkes Foundation was established in 1972 by Dr Ernest Foulkes CBE HonMD HonFRCP, with the aim of promoting medical research, the training of scientists and the study of medicine. The Foulkes Foundation Medal has been awarded biennially since 2007.

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