Can we reshape AML’s microenvironment to save lives?
What if the protein CCR1 holds clues about the protective role of AML’s microenvironment? Could it be targeted to unlock better treatment options?
Dr Simona Valletta, University of Manchester, will investigate the role of a protein called CCR1 and discover whether blocking it could improve AML survival.
Chemotherapy remains the backbone of treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Most patients will go into remission after initial treatment, but unfortunately for a significant number the disease will come back.
Almost 3,100 people are diagnosed with AML every year in the UK. The disease has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer type. Kinder, more effective treatments are urgently needed to stop the disease devastating lives.
The science behind the research
Dr Valletta and her team are interested in the environment that surrounds leukaemia cells – it’s microenvironment. The team want(s) to understand how the microenvironment acts to protect AML cells, by supporting cell growth and resistance to therapy. They are particularly interested in the role of a protein called CCR1.
During her John Goldman Fellowship, Dr Valletta will investigate the role of CCR1 in detail. She will use a molecule capable of blocking this protein to work out whether this affects leukaemia progression and the surrounding microenvironment.
Dr Valletta will use a new technology to study each individual microenvironment cell and determine which are most harmful. The same approach will be used to investigate if these harmful cells in the environment change when CCR1 is blocked, providing less support to leukaemia. Could the microenvironment be reshaped in a way that is less supportive for leukaemia?
What difference will this research make?
Targeting CCR1 to exploit the microenvironment in AML has the potential to significantly improve AML treatment in the future. This strategy could be used to complement existing treatments, as well as helping to overcome treatment resistance.
The impact of this research could go beyond the treatment of AML, as greater knowledge into the leukaemia microenvironment is also relevant to other blood cancers, as well as solid tumours.