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Analysing MDS stem cells to develop new treatments

Professor Jacqueline Boultwood is studying MDS stem cells, the cells at the root cause of the disease. The team hope to identify changes in these cells that could be targeted by drugs, giving people with the disease the best chance of survival.

The challenge

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a common blood cancer, but we have few effective treatments for the disease. One way to improve how we treat MDS is to create targeted treatments that attack the specific changes in genes that can occur in cancer cells.

The project

Professor Jacqueline Boultwood and her team are studying MDS stem cells, which are a small population of cells that give rise to a steady stream of new MDS cells. They are focusing on stem cells that have a change in the gene SRSF2, a change that can make cancers more difficult to treat.

By looking at single stem cells from people with MDS, Professor Boultwood and her team hope to be able to detect genes that aren’t working properly in MDS. Once they’ve identified these errors, they will test drugs that could destroy these cancerous stem cells but leave healthy blood cells alone.

The future

The hope is that the team will be able to identify new drugs which may have the potential to treat MDS. If successful, they will test the newly identified drugs in clinical trials. This could lead to better treatments for people with MDS and other blood cancers.