Searching for more effective and safer treatments for children
Precursor B cell Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of blood cancer, which is the commonest tumour affecting children. Since the 1970s, by altering the doses of conventional chemotherapy drugs we have achieved steady improvements in survival. Recently these improvements have become less dramatic, and currently 20% of children with ALL die from it. Furthermore, many of the children who do survive to adulthood develop long-term medical problems related to chemotherapy. This underlines the need for new more specific drugs to target the disease with the dual aims of curing the difficult 20% of cases and reducing side effects for all patients.
Over the last 20 years we have addressed this issue by trying to better understand the biology of ALL. We have focused on a particular sub-type of ALL called TEL-AML1 leukaemia, in which the cancer cells carry the TEL-AML1 genetic mutation. The advances we have previously made are also relevant to other types of ALL and we expect this to be the case in the future. In this programme we will investigate how TEL-AML1 causes leukaemia, why some patients relapse, and identify new ways to treat this and other related types of leukaemia.