Childhood leukemia better understood through international research collaboration

Collaborative research from the University of Melbourne and University of Glasgow has comprehensively analysed the differences between the childhood and adult forms of acute myeloid leukaemia, demonstrating that the childhood form is biologically different to the adult.

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is one of the most aggressive types of blood cancers that affects children and adults of all ages and has the worst survival rates of all the leukaemias. About 20% of all leukaemias occur in children.

The breakthrough research was led by Dr Karen Keeshan from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Cancer Sciences and published in Nature Communications. Dr Keeshan is a close collaborator of the Wells laboratory at The University of Melbourne, led by Professor Christine Wells, Director of Centre for Stem Cell Systems.

The data generated from this new research forms a part of the Leukomics portal on Stemformatics, an online database designed to support research like this.

Previously it was accepted that features of AML within the bone marrow apply to all AMLs, both in the childhood and adult forms. Instead, the researchers found that the age of the original cell is a major factor in the nature of the disease as it transforms into a leukaemia cell; young cells give rise to acute leukaemia with unique blood cell features and changes to the bone marrow environment that are distinct to the disease in adults.

Dr. Jarny Choi from the Centre for Stem Cell Systems at the University of Melbourne, who led the data analysis on this project, said "In this work, we found a distinct molecular profile and potential gene targets for paediatric cells of origin. It gives us hope that new and more specific treatments will arise to treat paediatric AML, which is currently treated with therapies developed for adults."

More information:

Read the research article and explore the Stemformatics dataset.

Media Coverage:

The Times:"Scientists break new ground on childhood leukaemia" - 12 December 2018

The National: "New leukaemia hope after lab breakthrough" - 12 December 2018

The Sun: "Boost in Big C Bid" - 12 December 2018

More Information

Dr Jarny Choi

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