Can we develop better targeted treatments for AML?  

What if we could design effective drugs for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) with fewer side-effects? Could we reuse the ones we already have to treat other AML subtypes?   



Dr Dan Coleman, University of Birmingham, is finding out whether new drugs called RAS inhibitors could be used to treat more people with AML than previously thought.

The challenge

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is the most common form of acute leukaemia in adults, and has one of the lowest survival rates for blood cancers. Because it mostly affects older people, it is often difficult to treat with aggressive chemotherapy, which can cause severe side-effects for people who can already be quite frail.

Instead, scientists hope to develop more ‘targeted treatments’ for AML – drugs which kill cancer cells but leave healthy cells unscathed. However, even with these targeted treatments, leukaemia cells can find clever ways to become resistant. We need to respond by preventing AML from developing drug resistance.

The science behind the research

In his search for targeted treatments for AML, Dr Dan Coleman has been working on drugs which inhibit a group of proteins called the RAS family. These RAS inhibitor drugs work best against AML cells which have a mutation in one of the RAS genes, which occurs in about 6% of cases.

But Dan has found one exception to this rule. He has previously discovered these RAS inhibitors are also very effective against AML cells which carry a different mutation, called ‘FLT3-ITD’.

This discovery is exciting, because it suggests that RAS inhibitors could be used as a treatment for more types of AML than scientists previously thought.

During his John Goldman Fellowship, Dan will be studying the role of RAS mutations in different subtypes of AML. He will further investigate how new RAS inhibitor drugs could be useful against FLT3-ITD cancers, and possibly other types of AML too.

What difference will this research make?

Dan hopes that combining RAS inhibitors with other drugs could prevent AML from developing resistance to treatment. This would make the initial treatment of AML more successful, and reduce the chances of the cancer coming back in the future.

Because normal healthy cells are less affected than leukaemia cells by these RAS inhibitor drugs, this would also hopefully mean fewer side-effects than conventional treatments. This would help people to live well and live longer after an AML diagnosis.

Project information

Lead researcher

Dr Daniel Coleman


University of Birmingham

Blood cancer type


Award type

John Goldman Fellowship Follow-up Fund

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