Improving survival for patients with acute leukaemia

Today, 85 per cent of children with leukaemia can be cured, but the outlook for patients over 60 is bleak. Only 10 per cent survive beyond one year as their cancer adapts to weather the storm of standard chemotherapy treatments. Associate Professor Steven Lane wants to change that outlook.

Steven and his team at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have developed a method to rapidly profile the genetics of different leukaemia types—of which there are hundreds—and model them in the lab.

This allows them to work with many leukaemia types simultaneously, providing a cheaper, faster and more accurate model of the leukaemia.

Resistance to standard chemotherapy treatments occurs in most patients with acute myeloid leukaemia, and it is particularly common in those patients over 60 years of age.

Steven’s previous research revealed that rare leukemic stem cells allow the cancer to last through treatment then later grow out, driving the relapse in these patients.

Working with cells from patients with resistant cancers, and with mice, Steven has been able to map the effectiveness of individual chemotherapy treatments against the genomes of individual cancers.

Now, with the help of a CSL Centenary Fellowship, he’s looking at tailoring treatments to individual patients. Specifically, he’ll use the Fellowship to identify new drug pathways and explore repurposing existing drugs to target resistant leukaemia types.

Researcher and clinician Steven Lane is using genetics to improve the outlook for leukaemia patients (Credit: QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute)