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2020 NIHR ACF PES BSMS Platform Science and Bioinformatics



2020 NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship in Priority Research Themes

HEE Local Office: Kent Surrey and Sussex
Medical School: Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Research Theme: Platform Science and Bioinformatics
Specialty Options: Haematology or Infectious Diseases

Plain English Summary

Leukaemia is a form of blood cancer that can affect anyone at any age but is typically diagnosed in older adults. There are many forms of leukaemia, but the one with the worst outlook for patients is called acute myeloid leukaemia, or AML. Despite many years of cutting edge research into AML, we are still using the same drug treatments as were used 40 years ago. The best chance of cure is from a stem cell transplant but this is really only an option for younger patients who are fit and healthy at the time of diagnosis.
Recent genetic studies have identified certain genes which go wrong in AML. These are called genetic mutations and one in particular is very common occurring in one third of patients.  This gene is called DNMT3A and it is a gene that is responsible for methylating DNA, that is to say it affects which other genes are turned on and off.  When it is mutated, as happens in healthy people usually over the age of 50, there is a chance that they can develop AML.  Sadly, for these patients, the outlook of DNMT3A-mutated AML is very poor with most people succumbing to the disease within one year.
This project is aimed at understanding how mutations in the DNMT3A gene cause AML and more importantly how we can better treat patients with more targeted drugs.  The Leukaemia Laboratory in Brighton has recently discovered a new strategy for doing just this using a drug that is already used in patients with other forms of blood cancer, so we know that it is safe.  We will use state-of-the-art methods to investigate this treatment further with the goal in the future of studying it in a clinical trial.
The project will be conducted at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, which is part of Sussex University, and will be overseen by Dr Chevassut who is a researcher and clinical doctor in haematology, and treats patients at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.  He works closely with other colleagues in a large clinical research team, in particular Professor Chris and Dr Andrea Pepper who are both leading researchers in blood cancer.  The focus of Dr Chevassut's work is translational research with the goal of finding better treatments for AML that might one day lead to a cure for patients.