Mapping the DNA rewiring in ALL

Lead researcher - Dr Niklas Feldhahn, Imperial College London
Enhancer reprogramming during BCR-ABL1-induced malignant transformation of B-cell precursors
Amount awarded: £250,000
Award start date: 01 May 2019
Award duration: 3 years (36 months)

A gene change called BCR-ABL1 kick starts a type of leukaemia called Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The new BCR-ABL1 gene makes a mutant protein that causes cells to divide more often and to live longer than usual. While this gene change starts and drives the leukaemia, additional events are needed for the disease to develop fully.

Large scale ‘rewiring’ of DNA often happens in different types of cancer, causing multiple genes to become active when they shouldn’t. Recent research by Dr Feldhahn has revealed that this rewiring happens in Philadelphia positive ALL.

Dr Feldhahn and his team are now developing a map of DNA interactions that occur in Philadelphia positive ALL in order to gain a better understanding of what drives the disease. The team will also find out if interfering with the DNA interactions established during the start of the disease can cause the leukaemia cells to die. While this research won’t immediately lead to new treatments, it will provide the basis for future targeted treatments.