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Investigating acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)

  • Researcher: Professor Paolo Salomoni
  • Institution: University College London
  • Award Amount: £210,946 for 3 years from September 2013
  • Cancer Type: Leukaemia
Investigating acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)
Professor Salomoni and his colleague Professor de Thé are using their Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia (APL).  APL is a cancer of our white blood cells, in this case myeloid cells.  White blood cells are a vital part of our immune system where they help fight infection.  APL is a type of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia but is treated differently and it is very aggressive and progresses quickly.  It is rare in young children but can affect adults of any age which is unusual as most cancers occur in older people.  Around 200 adults are diagnosed with APL every year in the UK alone.

Every cell in our body contains thousands of genes that control most of the activities in the cell.  In some cancers, including leukaemia, one gene can become fused or ‘glued’ to the end of another one, creating a hybrid gene.  Professor Salomoni will be looking at one of these hybrid genes and a molecule called DAXX and their role in causing APL.  DAXX has been implicated in other human cancers, such as tumours of the pancreas and brain, and works by modifying the way the DNA is packed in the cell. APL is one of the success stories of cancer therapy, with the majority of people with APL now surviving the disease. However, by better understanding how APL develops, in the future, scientists can then take this information and try to find ways to stop it from occurring or detect it earlier or to better treat it. Furthermore, this information will potentially provide new clues on how to treat other cancers characterized by similar disease mechanisms.
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