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QMUL researchers awarded £1.4m from charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have been awarded a Specialist Programme Grant of £1.4 million from the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. The programme aims to uncover the cause(s) of familial leukaemia and myelodysplasia–blood disorders that cause a life threatening drop in the number of healthy blood cells – and will begin in April 2015.

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The researchers include Professor Inderjeet Dokal and Dr Tom Vulliamy, based within the Blizard Institute and Professor Jude Fitzgibbon based within Barts Cancer Institute – both part of QMUL.

The research programme aims to achieve:
·  Identification and characterisation of new cases of familial leukaemia and myelodysplasia. This will help to define the precise prevalence and the natural history of this group of life threatening disorders.
·  Determine the genetic variability of the disease including progression from mild to severe.
·  Identification and characterisation of new disease genes, as many patients remain uncharacterised at the genetic level.
· Improve clinical management by developing specific clinical guidelines and establishing a patient support group.

Professor Inderjeet Dokal and Dr Tom Vulliamy, Queen Mary University of London, comment: “This research award represents the most comprehensive and integrated programme to date internationally. We aim to provide a step change in the basic understanding of this group of diseases as well as in clinical management and outcomes. The research will be a collaboration, drawing on expertise across the medical school and we look forward to getting underway.”

The laboratory research programme will include a variety of cell and molecular biology techniques. The starting point for many of the experiments will be patient cells obtained from blood and marrow samples. Whole cells and specific constituents of patient cells (such as DNA, RNA and proteins) will be analysed and compared to normal controls. The recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies will be crucial to the success of this programme.

Professor Jude Fitzgibbon concludes: “Collectively these studies will enable us to determine the causes of familial leukaemia and myelodysplasia (MDS). From this we hope to develop new diagnostic genetic tests for these patients, and more accurately predict the number of patients with these disorders to facilitate better planning of health services. Together, this will significantly improve clinical outcomes for patients.”

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