Hopes raised of blocking return of leukaemia

6 July 2011

Professor Eric So, 1996 scholar and 2000 fellow, is based at King’s College London where he has been working on a way to stop one of the most aggressive forms of acute leukaemia MLL returning after a patient has received treatment. Recurrence of this form of cancer caused by rogue leukaemic stem cells is a major problem. But So and his colleagues have raised hopes of a solution.

In the journal Cell Stem Cell, they describe how they eliminated the rogue cells by suppressing two key proteins. It is hoped the work will lead to new treatments which will enable complete remission for patients with a form of acute leukaemia. A protein called Bmi1 was already known to play a key role in the survival and proliferation of various cancer stem cells. But the King’s team showed that targeting Bmi1 alone was not enough to eradicate the rogue stem cells, as had previously been thought. To do that, the scientists found that Bmi1 had to be targeted in harness with a second protein, Hoxa9. This double assault abolished the ability of MLL mutation to induce leukaemia.

So said, “These findings take us a step forward in our understanding of how this devastating disease can return in patients after they have received the standard treatment.” So was awarded a Croucher Studentship in 1994, a Croucher Scholarship in 1996 and a Croucher Fellowship in 2000.


To view Eric So's personal Croucher profile, please click here