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Investigating a syndrome called myelodysplasia and how it can turn into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

  • Researcher: Dr Meredith O'Keeffe
  • Institution: Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  • Award Amount: £222,043 for 3 years from January 2014
  • Cancer Type: Leukaemia
Investigating a syndrome called myelodysplasia and how it can turn into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
Dr Meredith O’Keeffe is studying a mouse model of myelodysplastic syndrome which has many features similar to the human syndrome, including progression to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).  AML is a type of cancer that affects white blood cells and bone marrow.  AML usually develops quickly, over days or weeks and is the most common type of leukaemia in adults, usually in people over 65 years old.Dr O’Keeffe has already found that these special mice have a much smaller number of dendritic cells in the bone marrow, which is also true of people with myelodysplasia.  Dendritic cells are part of the immune system that helps our bodies recognise foreign bodies like bacteria or viruses.  Dr O’Keeffe has also found that of those dendritic cells that remain, there are five distinct types.  Her team are therefore investigating if the loss of these dendritic cells in the bone marrow actually exacerbates the disease and plays a role in the progression to AML.  To do this she will be using both healthy mice and special mice that have the myelodysplastic syndrome.  The team will also be confirming that their findings are relevant to humans by examining bone marrow samples from patients with myelodysplasia or AML and investigating the same five types of dendritic cells found in the mice.  Dr O’Keeffe hopes to better understand the role of dendritic cells in the development of myelodysplasia and the transition to AML.
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