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How does leukaemia develop in babies?

Some babies develop leukaemia’s as a result of changes that happen before birth. Professor Katrin Ottersbach wants to understand more about these changes and why some babies see their cancer return despite treatment.

The challenge

Thanks to research, we have good treatments available for older children with leukaemia. However, these don’t work very well for babies under a year old and often cause severe side effects and long-term health issues. In order to create better treatments for babies, it is important to gain a better understanding of how their leukaemia develops.

The project

Certain leukaemia’s, called mixed lineage leukaemia’s (MLLs), can undergo changes which make them harder to treat. Professor Katrin Ottersbach and her team are looking at two genetic changes that occur before birth that are thought to lead to MLL. They are investigating the role that each of these errors has in the development of the disease and in addition to this, they will try and understand why some leukaemia’s escape treatment, causing some babies cancers to return.

The future

Improving our understanding of the factors driving this disease in babies and why some babies see their cancer return, will help lay the groundwork to create better and kinder treatments in the future.