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 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 cancer cells from dying. By understanding this, Dr Afonso and his team can begin to target AML with treatments.