Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Pursuing new clues about the cause of a rare childhood blood cancer

Dr Emanuele Azzoni
Project period
Apr 2024 - Mar 2027
Research Institute
Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca
Cancer types
Blood cancer
Childhood cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Azzoni is investigating new clues suggesting that inflammation may be linked to the development of juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia, a rare type of childhood blood cancer. 

Hope for the future

Juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML) affects very young children, most often under 3 years old. Sadly, there are few treatments available, and for many of these children a stem cell or bone marrow transplant is the only option. Still, in half of the cases the disease later comes back. 

But new research findings hint that a process called inflammation could be involved in JMML. Inflammation is a natural and powerful way that our body uses to heal. But sometimes unhelpful inflammation processes can be triggered inside our bodies, and can persist for a long time. Dr Azzoni and his team want to establish exactly which molecular pathways link this persistent type of inflammation to JMML. They can then determine if targeting these pathways could be a new way to treat the condition, bringing fresh hope to families.  


Shot of Dr Emanuele Azzoni from waist up, smiling

Meet the scientist

Emanuele is a big music fan! In his spare time, he loves playing bass guitar and collecting vinyl records. He also enjoys cooking Italian food, hiking (there are plenty of beautiful places around the Milan area!) and spending time with friends and family. A good fantasy/science fiction book or movie has always been a great way to relax for him.

The science

Persistent inflammation has already been linked to some types of blood cancer, but it has never been properly studied before in JMML. In fact, researchers don’t really know what causes JMML, partly because it is so rare and difficult to study. Only around 1 child in a million under the age of 14 are diagnosed every year.

Now Dr Azzoni and his team have found some exciting molecular ‘clues’ suggesting that inflammation could be a possible cause of JMML. They have analysed levels of gene activity in children with JMML, and found that some genes linked to inflammation were unusually active. These findings have opened up an exciting direction of research for the team, and they will now investigate in the lab and in mice with a human form of the disease how inflammation could be linked to JMML.

If the researchers can find out more about exactly how inflammatory pathways and processes are involved in JMML, they can then investigate if disrupting these pathways could be a possible new way to stop the disease.

Shot of Dr Emanuele Azzoni from waist up, smiling Dr Emanuele Azzoni
Your generosity fuels our research endeavours aimed at a better understanding of cancer. Thanks especially for making it possible to pursue our ambitious research project, striving to generate new biological insight and to find new treatments for Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukaemia (JMML). Your support will not only fund scientific advances, but also offers hope to many children affected by this disease. Thank you for being the driving force behind our mission!

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