Wednesday, 6 July 2016

NI Expertise Paving the Way in Leukaemia Research.

Hopefully you will have seen some of our recent shameless bragging posts about two of our fantastic scientists winning prizes at the International Society of Haematology / British Society Haematology meeting in Glasgow.

To attend these events the researcher must submit an abstract of their work for review by a panel and if it is deemed worthwhile and of interest they then get an opportunity to attend and present their work.  The meeting this year was particularly special as the British contingent hosted the International Society which attracted some of the world leaders in haematological research.

A prize at this conference is the highest accolade available to a research scientist, the international recognition and support for their work from the World Class leaders in the field is a clear indicator that a project has the potential to radically improve survival prospects for patients.  Only five prizes were awarded following the conference, for two to come from Belfast speaks volumes for the level of expertise and talent we have here in Northern Ireland.

Dr Kyle Matchett was awarded a prize for his poster presentation on his LLNI funded drug repurposing work; more information on his project is available in our previous blogs.  

Dr Laura Kettyle was awarded the ‘Best Presentation in the Best Abstract Session’, her peers here have kindly explained to the non-science folk that she essentially won the conference.

Laura has been working on a project that focusses on mixed lineage leukaemia (MLL) - this is a type of childhood leukaemia in which a piece of chromosome 11 has broken off and attached itself to another chromosome.  The chromosome changes in MLL can be difficult to detect with conventional analysis and patients do not respond well to standard leukaemia therapies.  Subsequently children with this type of leukaemia have a particularly poor prognosis despite developments in diagnosis and the availability of advanced treatment methods.

Laura has managed to identify a number of genes that are critical in the growth and development of MLL, her aim is now to try and find a drug that will indirectly target these genes with the hope of identifying new therapies for patients.  The most cost efficient and timely method of identifying a drug that can help these patients is through repurposing existing drugs that are readily available to treat other illnesses. Laura is currently in the process of screening a number of drugs, should she identify one which has a positive effect on the genes it will be subject to further rigorous screening and tests before it will considered for use on these particularly vulnerable patients.

The initial part of this project was funded by UK charity Bloodwise (formerly Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research), Laura has continued her work with funding from LLNI which has recently been extended until December 2017.

For more information on this project or any others, please get in touch.