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Uncovering the cellular decisions that lead to blood cancer

Researcher
Dr Jose Luis Sardina
Country
Research Institute
Institut de Recerca Conta la Leucemia Josep Carreras, Barcelona, Spain
Cancer types
Leukaemia
Dr Jose Luis Sardina

Aim of the research

Dr Jose Luis Sardina and his team are using a unique cell model to study the development of leukaemia – in reverse. In this way they hope to uncover the first stages of cancer development and to identify new targets for the treatment of recurring leukaemia.

Meet the scientist

Dr Jose Luis Sardina enjoys travelling, cycling and cooking, which he uses to create his favourite dishes, including Paella, black rice and fried calamari. He enjoyed reading “The Lord of the Rings” as a kid and has a similar affection for the book “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.

More about the research project

Cases of leukaemia are rising in the UK, making it a major burden to patients and the UK health system alike.  The rise in leukaemia is thought to be partly caused by an ageing population. Around 40% of new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 75. Effective treatments are available, but unfortunately leukaemia frequently resurfaces after treatment.

Blood cells are created in the bone marrow, where they mature from blood stem cells into different types of cells. Which type of cell develops depends on small changes to the chemistry of DNA. These changes instruct cells how to behave and are essential for the creation of different types of blood cells. In some cases, the editing mechanisms fail, leading to abnormal cell development and leukaemia.

Dr Jose Luis Sardina and his team are trying to understand the causes and impacts of these failures in cancer development. They are using unique cells to study how leukaemia develops – in reverse. In this way they hope to unveil the very first events that ultimately lead to leukaemia. Dr Sardina hopes that results from this study might shed light on potential new targets for the treatment of leukaemia.

Dr Toni Celia-Terrassa and his team are now studying this peer pressure effect in cell populations. They use a colouring technique which allows them to watch how EMT spreads from cell to cell - like a game of dominoes. Dr Celia-Terrassa hopes that by understanding EMT, researchers might be able to stop the domino effect and thereby the spread of cancer.

The funds from the worldwide cancer research are essential both for me and for my lab since I am in an early career stage. These funds represent the petrol that I need to switch on and maintain the engine of the lab over the coming years.