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Funding boost in fight against leukaemia

University of Manchester researchers have been awarded £1.6 million to study a group of genes identified as playing a key role in leukaemia.

The grant, by Leukaemia Research, will fund work analysing a wide range of cancer-causing genes in the hope of targeting their common mechanisms of action for patient benefit.

“All cancers and leukaemias occur because of mutations in certain genes that stop them functioning properly,” said Tony Whetton, Professor of Cancer Cell Biology and research leader.

“Mutations in a group of genes leads to unregulated activity in a group of proteins called tyrosine kinases, which change the actions of other proteins, leading to leukaemia.”

The team are using state-of-the-art equipment to discover whether the different leukaemia-associated kinases contribute to the disease in the same way; if they do, it offers the opportunity to develop common therapies to block their actions.

“This would potentially be effective for many different types of leukaemia because the mutated kinase genes we are studying occur in several types of blood and bone marrow cancers,” said Professor Whetton, who is Head of the School of Cancer and Imaging Sciences.

“What is also exciting is that there are already drugs that are able to block the actions of kinases. These kinase inhibitor drugs are attracting worldwide attention as a new form of treatment for certain cancers including some leukaemias. We hope to add further leukaemias to this list by understanding more fully what this range of kinases do.”

Leukaemia Research currently provides more than £3.6 million in funding to the School of Cancer and Imaging Sciences, complementing ongoing research in other areas of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) alliance between the University and the Christie Trust.

This alliance has had a synergistic effect on cancer research in Manchester by promoting cross-disciplinary collaborations and attracting new funding from government, industry and charities.

Professor Whetton said: “In the past few years we have developed a multidisciplinary research approach, employing the latest cutting-edge technologies to take basic research towards clinical relevance as swiftly as possible”.

“In so doing, we have built a research platform that not only enables leukaemia research but cancer research in general on the Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust site.”

Aeron Haworth | alfa
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