When people are told they have leukaemia, they often feel fear. Leukaemia is the most common cancer in children and many people have heard of it. Sometimes, people are aware of leukaemia because they know someone who has died with it. At HERO we want to change the outlook for those patients with poor prognosis leukaemia. We are continuing to research new treatment approaches so that in the decades to come that ‘fear factor’ will diminish.
In HERO we have been working closely with researchers in CancerResearch@UCC. We are actively looking at new ways to cause the leukaemia cell to ‘grow up’ and behave itself. When cancer cells cause harm to patients its often because they are immature, don’t have any useful actions, and divide rapidly. We are advancing the more novel approach of causing cells to ‘grow up’ by manipulating their cell death machinery (autophagy).
Some of our research is done in collaboration with international partners in Nottingham, Switzerland and New York. This gives us access to equipment and techniques that are not available in Ireland currently. One example of this is the rapid analysis of large amounts of DNA in cancer cells to analyse how much of it is being ‘translated’ or used to turn on cancer signals in cells. Techniques available to us through this collaboration are able to look at the DNA and its messenger (called RNA) in a single leukaemia cell.