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Southampton scientists handed £1.3m boost for leukaemia research
SCIENTISTS in the south have been handed a £1.3million grant towards lifesaving research into an aggressive form of cancer.
Experts from Southampton University and Salisbury District Hospital have been awarded the cash from the Leukaemia and Lymphomas Research Trust.
The university has launched a pioneering five-year project to improve diagnosis for blood cancer patients in partnership with the Salisbury hospital’s Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory.
They are studying a group of blood disorders called myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) which are known to develop into the killer cancer strain leukaemia.
MPN are responsible for causing an overproduction of blood cells in the victim’s body, which causes the blood to thicken and the presence of some MPN subtypes have a higher likelihood of the person developing leukaemia.
The team is using state-of-the art technology called generation DNA sequencing to study the genetic changes occurring within the cells to investigate which subtypes cause the disease and why.
They want to use this information to develop new drugs targeted at specific molecular faults to seek out and destroy MPN cells.
Around 3,300 people are diagnosed with MPN in Britain every year and most sufferers are aged over 50.
The disorders develop gradually, sometimes with very few early symptoms, but later effects include fatigue, blood clots, bleeding and bruising.
The project is being led by the university’s Professor of Human Genetics Nick Cross, who is director at the Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory.
Professor Cross said: “We have looked at these blood disorders and have identified several important genes that contribute to the development of the diseases. “The new technology now available will provide a much more in-depth analysis of all genes.”
Dr Matt Kaiser, research head at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research said: “Currently there are no curative treatments for MPN and we need to know more about the biology of high and low risk disease.
“Research is vital because the more we understand about the disease’s development, the more help we can provide to enhance treatment options and provide smarter diagnosis for patients.”
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