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New funding extends blood cancer research

Posted: 27th August 2021

Associate Professor Mark Chong has received a grant from Perpetual Foundation – The Ann Helene Toakley Charitable Endowment, to support his research into new treatment targets for a devastating form of blood cancer.

Myeloproliferative diseases (also known as myeloproliferative neoplasms) are blood cancers with no clear cause and limited treatment options. Progressing slowly and initially with few symptoms, the condition is driven by abnormal growth of bone marrow stem cells, resulting in over-production of blood cells.

Sadly, almost three-quarters of people diagnosed with myeloproliferative disease will die from acute leukaemia within five years of diagnosis.

“Our limited understanding of what drives myeloproliferative disease has hampered development of new treatments that could help patients,” says Mark.

“My team and I have discovered a new molecule, Myl9, which plays a critical role in bone marrow stem cells. It is becoming clear that levels of this molecule are linked to the development of blood cancer, but we don’t yet know how or why.”

Mark’s team has so far shown how loss of Myl9 correlates with myeloproliferative disease, while increased Myl9 correlates with another type of blood cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome. The team has also shown how altering levels of Myl9 causes leukaemia in mouse cells.

“We are now in a unique position to investigate the exact function of Myl9, and how it might trigger cancer growth,” Mark explains. “Our goal is to deliver new drug targets for the treatment of myeloproliferative diseases, and do the preclinical testing required to move any potential treatments a step closer to patient care.”

“If our hypothesis about the role of Myl9 in cell movement and growth is correct, potential treatment options from this new discovery will certainly be possible within 10 years.”

“I’m really excited by the research that this new funding makes possible.”

For more information please see: Genomics & immunology