QUB Wins Grant To Improve Cancer Treatments

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have won a grant to help improve treatment for a type of bone marrow cancer.

The £173,000 will further scientific research undertaken at the university to benefit patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a form of bone marrow cancer that causes the gradual failure of the production of mature health cells. It's hoped the work will improve outcomes for elderly patients.

In some patients, MDS can progress to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), whereby the abnormal cells grow very rapidly, building up in the bone marrow and blood.

The grant will fund a four-year PhD studentship and has been awarded to Professor Ken Mills, Dr Kienan Savage and Dr Katrina Lappin, a leading cancer research team from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology. Their work will build on recent discoveries that cancerous cells form a large proportion of patients with MDS, particularly those that progress to AML, have a DNA repair defect.

Professor Mills explained: "To date our research has examined the molecular consequences of mutations in RNA splicing and DNA structure genes, both of which can have an impact on the way that DNA is repaired. A DNA repair deficiency can be manipulated to enhance existing or novel therapies to improve outcomes in elderly patients."
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The new research grant will further explore the role of deficiencies in DNA as a therapeutic target, particularly during disease progression.

Professor Mills added: "We are delighted to be the recipients of MDS UK's first scientific research grant that will enable us to further investigate the impact of DNA repair in MDS particularly on disease progression from MDS to AML.

"Through this research, we will be able to identify the best treatment plans for patients, which could result in reduced disease progression and improved patient outcomes."

CEO of MDS UK Sophie Wintrich explained: "To date, alongside crucial advocacy work, enabling access to treatment, MDS UK has provided close to 2800 MDS patients, carers and families with essential quality of life support, information and advice, via our helpline, patient meetings, newsletters, booklets and our website. It is particularly exciting for our organisation now to be able to add a research project to our core services."

Kes Grant from MDS UK added: "As a committee member of MDS UK, as well as a patient diagnosed with MDS 20 years ago, I am really excited about this venture into research. We tend to think about research in terms of data. What we are really talking about is resetting the DNA of people and these people are partners and parents, aunties and grandparents, workers and friends. Imagine how many people could benefit from a breakthrough like this."


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