What is this research looking at?

Leukaemia is a type of blood cancer that often occurs because of alterations in specific genes. The MLL gene is commonly rearranged in aggressive types of leukaemia and is most frequently found fused to AF4 gene (MLL-AF4). MLL-AF4+ acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) occurs in infants, children and adults and is biologically and clinically different across different ages. These differences are likely explained by the characteristics of the type of cell in which MLL-AF4 first appears. In infants and children these abnormalities arise before birth, however whether the cell-of-origin is different in infant, paediatric and adult leukaemia is not well understood. We plan to characterise the differences in the origins and biology of MLL-AF4+ ALL in those three age groups.

What could this mean for people with ALL?

The knowledge gained in this study will help identify key characteristics of treatment resistant MLL-AF4+ ALL that can be used to develop novel and more efficient therapy, especially for infants where the outcome is very poor.


Official project title

Unravelling the cell-of-origin and leukaemia initiation in MLL-AF4+ acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at a single-cell level.


About Dr Marcela Mansur

I am Brazilian, born in a small town called Paraíba do Sul in the south area of the state of Rio de Janeiro (RJ). My town is ~140 km from the city of Rio de Janeiro – the capital of the RJ state - where I have been living for more than 18 years now (except my brief postdoctoral stint in the UK). I have a university degree in Biomedicine and a MSc and PhD degrees both in Oncology (genomics of leukaemia). I come from a very loving and united family of four: my mother, my father, my older brother and me. Now the family has expanded with my two nieces, whom I adore, and love spend time with.

I have always been passionate about research, as a child I was intrigued by how things evolved, especially in the biological field. Halfway through my University training I developed a special connection with cancer research. I then decided to investigate a little further about which type of cancer would interest me the most if I decided to pursue a career in that area. Blood cancers intrigued me because of their uniqueness and variable outcomes in different patient groups, and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) particularly appealed to me, because they affect mostly children. I was very keen to understand what the underlying causes of these intricate diseases were. In essence, I would very much like to make a meaningful scientific contribution to the field, and I believe that by exploring the origins and the genomics of particularly aggressive subtypes of ALL, I am likely to do so.

Having completed a Post-Doctoral Training Fellowship in the UK, and subsequently worked as an early career researcher in Brazil, I see the Leukaemia UK John Goldman Fellowship as an ideal opportunity to build a more definitive path towards my career independence. This Fellowship fits perfectly with my goals and will allow me: i) to perform outstanding research in a world leading scientific environment; ii) Lead an innovative project to clarify the origins of a particularly poor prognosis leukaemia: MLL-AF4+ ALL) and iii) to pave the way to a well-established career in leukaemia research in the UK. leukaemia: MLL-AF4+ ALL) and iii) to pave the way to a well-established career in leukaemia research in the UK.

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