New treatments for acute leukaemia

Dr Steven Lane

Researcher Dr Steven Lane
Institute QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Project title New treatments for acute leukaemia
Disease focus Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
Annual funding from us $100,000
Funding period 2013

Dr Steven Lane is beating blood cancers by investigating the role of an enzyme called telomerase in leukaemia. Telomerase acts in the nucleus of white blood cells to add the telomere to the ends of chromosomes following cell division. Chromosomes are the structures in which our DNA is tightly bound-up. The telomere is made-up of short bits of DNA that act as a ‘cap’ on the chromosome. As the cell ages, the telomere shortens eventually triggering programmed cell death. Normally telomerase is then ‘turned off’ after the cell has finished dividing. However, in myeloid leukaemia, there is increased telomerase activity.

‘Promising new therapy’

Dr Lane believes leukaemia stem cells are activating telomerase to enhance the cancer cells’ long-term survival and ability to self-renew. “Despite chemotherapy, acute myeloid leukaemia usually comes back, and we think that this is due to the persistence of leukaemia stem cells that are able to survive in the body during chemotherapy and regenerate the leukaemia. “Using a genetic model of the cancer, we’ve identified the telomerase complex as being essential for leukaemia stem cell function. This offers a promising new type of therapy for leukaemia that is available in the short term, as drugs inhibiting telomerase are entering clinical trials for other cancers.” Dr Lane and his team at QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Leukaemia Research Laboratory are defining the mechanisms controlling the production of telomerase in leukaemia stem cells. They hope to develop their findings into a pre-clinical model to treat AML with the combination of telomerase inhibitors in conjunction with chemotherapy. Learn more about our research »    Support our life-saving research program »

Dr Steven Lane’s other projects

The Leukaemia Foundation has also funded other research projects led by Dr Lane.

» Optimising stem cell transplantation

» Targeting stem cells in myeloproliferative disorders

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