Attacking the roots of AML

Lead researcher - Professor Bertie Göttgens, University of Cambridge
Deciphering leukaemogenic mechanisms by integrated systems-scale analysis
Amount awarded: £299,538
Award start date: 01 Mar 2019
Award duration: 3 years (36 months)

All the different types of blood cells in our body come from a specialised cell called a ‘blood stem cell’. In acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), changes can happen in the genes of the blood stem cell causing them to turn into ‘pre-leukaemia’ cells, so instead of making healthy blood cells, they make AML cells.

While it is possible to treat AML, around half of people will see their cancer return after their first treatment. This is due to several things, but one important reason is that the treatment is unable to kill off the small numbers of pre-leukaemic cells present in the AML.

Using cutting-edge technology, Professor Göttgens and his team will look at the activity of thousands of genes within a single cell and will see which ones are responsible for turning healthy blood stem cells into pre-leukaemic cells. They will then test whether disrupting these genes can kill off the pre-leukaemic cells.

If successful, this research will lead to a new generation of AML treatments that will be able to target the disease right at its very beginning.