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The Notch pathway in T-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

  • Researcher: Dr Anna Bigas
  • Institution: Fundacio Institut Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques (IMIM)
  • Award Amount: £199,867 for 3 years from May 2013
  • Cancer Type: Leukaemia
The Notch pathway in T-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Every function within our cells is controlled by specific molecules. These molecules are in turn controlled by other molecules, and those ones by yet more molecules. These are called pathways, as one molecule being turned on or off leads to the same happening in the next molecule in the pathway etc.

We already know about many such pathways, how they work, and affect different functions within our cells. Notch1 is one of the molecules involved in the Notch pathway. The Notch pathway plays a part in the development of a type of cancer called T-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (T-ALL). T-ALL is a rare type of leukaemia that generally affects older children and teenagers. It is an aggressive disease that progresses quickly, and affects T cells, which are white blood cells that are part of our immune system. Until now, the knowledge that the Notch pathway is needed for T-ALL development has not lead to any treatments because we need to know more about how it works and what parts of it might be blocked by a drug.

Dr Bigas and her team have found that other pathways are essential in cooperation with Notch1 to cause T-ALL in mice. They will be using their Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study how the Wnt pathway affects Notch and its ability to cause T-ALL. They will study what happens further along these pathways during T-ALL development, with the hope of identifying new ways to treat this disease.
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