What is this research looking at?

Natural killer (NK) cells are an important type of cell in the immune system and have the ability to kill virally infected and cancerous cells. For this reason, there is increasing interest in using NK cells as a new anti-cancer therapy. The ability of NK cells to recognise what is a cancer cell and what is a healthy cell is crucial for an effective immune response. Dr Matthew Blunt has recently discovered a new way in which NK cells can recognise virally infected cells and now has evidence that this same mechanism can be used to detect cancer cells. This project therefore aims to investigate how NK cells recognise leukaemia cells and if this can be utilised as a new anti-cancer therapy.

What could this mean for people with leukaemia?

We already know that natural killer cells have an important role in preventing relapse following stem cell transplantation. Increased understanding of how the NK cells detect leukaemia cells may therefore allow for improved selection of donors and patients in the transplant setting for treating leukaemia. In addition, this research will develop a new way to stimulate the NK cells, via receptors on their surface known as KIR2DS2, this has the potential to become a first-in class therapeutic agent for leukaemia.

“The John Goldman fellowship will provide me with funding to establish my research independence, develop my academic career and to work on an exciting project with strong potential to improve the treatment of leukaemia.

Researcher:  Dr Matthew Blunt 

Location: University of Southampton

Official title of project: Activating killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors in B-cell malignancies: a therapeutic target

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