Early disease eradication is critically important for long-term cure of AYAs diagnosed with ALL.
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is one of the top three leading causes of cancer death in adolescents and young adults (AYAs). Novel approaches that are safe and effective are urgently required to address this unmet medical need.
Dr Hanna’s research is looking at particular sub-types of ALL that are resistant to conventional chemotherapy, accounting for up to half of AYA patients. These ALL sub-types can be identified by their genetic profile and are driven by distinct types of protein in the cell, known as kinases.
Read more: Behind the science | Dr Diane Hanna
Kinases act as a ‘gas pedal for the leukaemia cell’ and may be susceptible to targeted drug therapy inhibiting their activity. These treatments, however, do not always work and patients do not always respond to such targeted drug therapy.
Thanks to highly experienced researchers and clinicians at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, a novel class of drugs called BH3 mimetics have been developed that cause cancer cells to die by directly stimulating cell death pathways.
In this project, Dr Hanna’s team will test this new class of drug in the lab to identify treatment combinations that show the greatest effect on killing cancer cells. Ultimately, they aim to identify treatment combinations that can progress to clinical trials to improve the cure rates in AYAs with poor prognosis ALL.