Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Targeting cancer’s weak spot – a new vulnerability for leukaemia

Dr Bruno Di Stefano
Project period
Jan 2024 - Dec 2026
Research Institute
Baylor College of Medicine
Cancer types
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Bruno Di Stefano and his team have discovered a key protein in the growth of acute myeloid leukaemia, a rare but very aggressive form of blood cancer. They hope that studying how this protein interacts with cancer cells will lead to new therapies for this devastating disease.

Hope for the future

Acute myeloid leukaemia is an aggressive type of blood cancer that mainly affects older adults. It develops very quickly, and often requires urgent treatment. Unfortunately, survival rates remain low, and there have been few advances in treatment options over the last few decades. New research is crucial if we hope to develop better, more effective treatments.

Dr Bruno Di Stefano and his team are looking into the fundamental biology of this disease to pave the way for new cures. Their work has already revealed a potential vulnerability in how acute myeloid leukaemia starts, and now the researchers are diving deeper. They hope that this project could lead to new, targeted therapies - a much-needed breakthrough for this aggressive cancer.


Dr Bruno Di Stefano and his team standing on the steps outside their research institute in Italy

Meet the scientist

Outside of the lab, Bruno enjoys traveling with his wife and son. They try to plan a big family trip every year during the summer. He also has a passion for various sports events, particularly European soccer, and he greatly enjoys following the NBA in the USA. In his downtime, he indulges in reading non-fiction books, with a particular love for the work of Murakami. 

The science

Every second, your body generates millions of new blood cells in your bone marrow. These cells, under normal conditions, keep you healthy by transporting oxygen and combating infections. However, in patients with acute myeloid leukaemia, this process malfunctions, leading to the creation of dysfunctional cells. These defective cells accumulate rapidly, hindering the body’s ability to ward off infections and potentially leading to death if untreated.

Dr. Di Stefano and his team are working to discover new treatments by studying the genetic processes that allow leukaemia cells to survive and multiply. Our cells’ DNA acts as a recipe book, containing instructions to make all the different proteins our bodies need. For proper growth, cells must copy and condense the recipe accurately to build proteins correctly.

The researchers have identified an enzyme, DDX6, that plays a pivotal role in this process of copying and condensing the recipe. Their findings suggest that DDX6 could be a significant factor in the growth of acute myeloid leukaemia. The team aims to further analyse the exact mechanisms by which DDX6 contributes to leukaemia growth. This investigation seeks to determine whether DDX6 could be a potential target for new cancer treatments. Ultimately, such precision therapies could revolutionize leukaemia treatment by specifically targeting the biological mechanisms that trigger cancer, without harming healthy cells.

Headshot of Dr Bruno Di Stefano Dr Bruno Di Stefano
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the supporters of cancer research. Your contributions are instrumental in advancing our understanding of cancer and developing new treatments. Without your support, our work would not be possible, and countless lives would remain untouched by progress. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to the fight against cancer.

Become a Curestarter and help us fund the next pioneering research project.

Our research projects wouldn’t be possible without the funds we receive from people like you. £37 pays for an hour of research and every hour brings us closer to new cures.

Support Us

Join our monthly newsletter

Keep up to date with all our latest news, events, groundbreaking research discoveries and much more!

You're now a Curestarter!

Our newsletter usually drops towards the end of each month

Thanks for subscribing