Harnessing New Stem Cell Technology

New funding from the Children’s Cancer Foundation will allow researchers at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute to apply their ground-breaking stem cell research to childhood leukaemia. 

With funding of more than $460,000 from the Foundation, the 3-year project will capitalise on the research team’s development of an improved method of creating blood stem cells in the lab almost identical to those that grow inside a developing embryo. 

Although the prognosis for childhood leukaemia has improved, survival rates still remain poor, particularly for those who develop the disease in infancy. In many of these young children the leukaemic cells carry a specific genetic abnormality, creating a 'fusion oncogene' that promotes cancer.

The project, led by Professor Andrew Elefanty and Professor Ed Stanley, will employ a new stem cell technique to introduce the cancer-causing fusion oncogenes into stem cells. They can then compare the development of normal blood cells with those carrying the oncogenes to better understand how they alter normal blood cell growth.

This will potentially lead to great improvements in the understanding of the way this cancer develops in children. 

Importantly, the work will also provide a way to test new treatment therapies and monitor their effect on the cancer fusion genes in order to improve the outcome for these children.

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