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Reapplying the brakes in out of control CLL cells

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia typically responds well to chemotherapy and other treatments, but eventually these treatments can stop working. Dr Michie is investigating ways we can overcome this problem.

The challenge

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common blood cancer among adults in the UK and is not yet curable. While in many cases people with CLL will respond to chemotherapy or targeted treatments, these treatments will eventually stop working. We need new therapies that can overcome this problem.

The project

Dr Alison Michie and her team are exploring the role of a group of proteins called FOXO in CLL, which can act as ‘brakes’ on the growth of cells. But in CLL, other cells can switch off FOXO, meaning that CLL cells can grow out of control.

The future

Dr Michie wants to know if disrupting the signals that are stopping FOXO proteins from working can prevent CLL cells from growing.There are already drugs available that can stop the signals switching off FOXO, so if Dr Michie’s work is successful, one or more of these may quickly become a new treatment option for people with CLL.