Blood stem cells are responsible for the growth and maintenance of all mature cells in our blood. Most of the current treatments for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) are very toxic and not very specific - targeting many cell types, including healthy ones. As a result, many patients cannot tolerate current treatments. 

If we can better understand the differences between the blood stem cells and the cells that drive the formation of cancer, we can go on to create unique and powerful treatments. Indeed, one of the mechanisms, the "Notch Pathway", regulates blood stem cells maintenance but is also detrimental for cells that drive AML. Dr Afonso's research aims to understand how AML avoids the "Notch Pathway", thereby preventing the cancer cells from dying. By understanding this, Dr Afonso and his team can begin to target AML with treatments.  

Leukaemia UK funding is invaluable for investigators who are establishing themselves as independent researchers. This award will allow me to gather more data and results so that I can apply for larger grants and continue work to identify a type of targeted therapy that will mean longer survival.

Dr Fernando dos Anjos Afonso