11 Dec 2019

Grant a boon to rare leukaemia research

Dr Catherine Carmichael
by Anne Crawford

Acute Erythroleukaemia (AEL) is an aggressive subtype of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) with extremely poor outcomes; patients have a less than 20% chance of surviving past five years. AEL is largely resistant to standard treatments and new therapies are desperately needed.

Currently, there is a very limited understanding of the mechanisms that underpin AEL development, and subsequently, scientists and clinicians have made very few inroads into understanding how to best treat this malignancy.

Dr Catherine Carmichael, a group leader at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (ACBD), has been awarded $1.38 million by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) towards a five-year project investigating novel therapeutic strategies for AEL.

“Largely due to its rarity, AEL has been significantly less well studied over the past 30 years compared to all other subtypes of AML,” Dr Carmichael said. “As a result, our understanding of AEL continues to be quite limited. Not surprisingly, outcomes for this malignancy have consequently remained fairly dismal.”

Dr Carmichael and her team will build on their recent involvement in a large-scale gene mutation analysis of AEL to create much-needed models of AEL, which faithfully recapitulate the genetics of the human disease.

“This NHMRC Ideas Grant now provides us with the exciting opportunity to utilise data from our recent genetics study to generate novel models of AEL in which to study the mechanisms of disease development. We hope that subsequent studies in these models will then allow us to discover new ways to treat AEL, and ultimately improve outcomes for patients.”

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