Cancer and Haematology

Cancer and Haematology

CSF stem cell colony
The Cancer and Haematology division is working to understand the production and function of the billions of blood cells used each day to fight infections and repair tissues, and how they are regulated at the molecular level.
Our aim is to understand how this process is disrupted in disease, in order to develop new therapies for immune disorders, inflammatory diseases, blood clotting disorders and cancers.

Understanding blood cell production

All the different blood cell types, including red blood cells, platelets and immune cells are produced by specialised stem cells in the bone marrow.

Dr Stanley Lee and colleagues showed that a protein complex, called PRC2, involved in regulating gene expression is essential for maintaining blood stem cell numbers and is required for the formation of immune cells.

Alterations in PRC2 have been linked to cancer development, and the team’s findings may inform new cancer treatment strategies that target PRC2.

Finding the key to Down syndrome

Down syndrome is an intellectual disability caused by having an extra copy of chromosome 21. The syndrome is associated with a predisposition to certain types of leukaemia.

Dr Ashley Ng and colleagues are investigating which genes on chromosome 21 contribute to leukaemia in people with Down syndrome. They discovered that having an extra copy of the Erg gene triggers changes in blood cells that can drive leukaemia development. 

Investigating childhood leukaemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is the most common type of childhood cancer. It is caused by overproduction of immature white blood cells.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) cells grow uncontrollably because they have gained ‘self-renewal’ capacity: the ability to propagate themselves indefinitely.

Dr Ben Shields and colleagues discovered that a protein called Hhex is a critical factor that allows T-cell ALL cells to self-renew. The finding will help in developing new treatments for leukaemia.

Health impact

Cancers: leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myeloproliferative disease

Immune disorders: asthma, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis

Other areas: blood clotting diseases, heart disease and stroke, personalised medicine

Division heads

Professor Nick Nicola

Professor Warren Alexander

Lab heads

Dr Jeff Babon (joint with Structural Biology division)

Professor David Huang

Dr Emma Josefsson

Professor Andrew Roberts

Dr Samir Taoudi (joint with Molecular Medicine division)

Dr Ian Majewski 

Division coordinator

Dr Sabine Kelly