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Leicester scientist announces 'unexpected and exciting advance' in study of cancer type

A University of Leicester scientist has announced a major advance in understanding of a cancer that strikes at infants and young children.

The Leicestershire and Rutland charity Hope Against Cancer, currently celebrating its 5th anniversary, has now made funding available to further the research project at the University of Leicester investigating acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Professor Martin Dyer, in the Universitys Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, has received 15,000 from Hope for consumables to aid his research.

Professor Dyers team has recently identified a series of ten novel chromosomal translocations in children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. These translocations arise following breaks within DNA that are repaired incorrectly.

Chromosomal translocations play a pivotal role in the development of ALL. Their identification is useful in terms of understanding how the disease arises, in defining new subgroups of disease and ultimately may lead to the development of new targeted therapies.

Professor Dyer commented: The identification of so many new chromosomal translocations in ALL is unexpected and is very exciting. It sheds fundamental new light on the pathogenesis of the disease. One translocation defines a subgroup of about 15% of patients that had previously lacked a molecular marker.

Understanding how these events transform normal cells has now become a major goal of my laboratory. I am very grateful to the rapid response of Hope Against Cancer, which will allow us to pursue this development fully in a timely manner.

Some of the data relating to Professor Dyers research has been presented to the American Society of Hematology.

Hope has already provided support for Professor Dyers research in the form of a Clinical Research Fellowship to investigate various aspects of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL)

This year Hope Against Cancer (formerly The Hope foundation for Cancer Research) is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Established in 2002, the Leicestershire and Rutland charity has grown in strength and now funds a significant number of cancer researchers in our local hospitals and universities.

Founded by the late Allison Wilson CBE, following the discovery that she had cancer, The Hope Foundation was set up to promote clinical trials, with all the benefits these bring to cancer care in the region.

Much of the research supported by Hope Against Cancer is based at the University of Leicester, where the charity funds PhD research posts, clinical fellowships, Allison Wilson Fellowships and this year, for the first time, a nursing fellowship. Projects include:

  • research into proteins that may trigger cancer

  • minimising the risks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • a bilberry derivative that may help prevent bowel and liver cancer
  • the use of natural products to prevent colorectal and prostate cancers
  • the targeting of treatments to suit individual cases

One of the regions consultant oncologists said: I cannot emphasise enough how difficult it is to get funding to start any research project. In this regard, the Hope Foundation is completely invaluable in providing funding where we have good ideas, some preliminary data, but clearly not enough information yet to go for a big project grant.

As a clinician, I therefore just want to emphasise how important these opportunities given to us by Hope are, both to promote cancer research in the region and to ensure that our patients really do benefit.


Contact: Professor Martin Dyer
University of Leicester

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