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Cardiff scientists take on leukaemia with drugs personalised to individual patients

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Cardiff scientists are treating leukaemia by trialling new drugs tailored to individual patients’ genetic make-up according to a presentation at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Birmingham today (Wednesday).

The team is running a Cancer Research UK-funded trial supported by the Cardiff Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre to develop new ways to treat Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

AML can vary from person to person because of slightly different faults in different genes.

The Cardiff group is working to identify potential drugs which could treat the different variations of the disease.

The second part of the teamss research is to code the genes of the people with AML entering the trials – and measure how well people with different faults in their genes respond to specific new treatments.

Cancer Research UK’s Professor Alan Burnett, head of the Cardiff ECMC based at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, said: “Our team identifies the different faults in genes which are likely to cause acute myeloid leukaemia and we develop new drugs to treat the varying forms of the disease.

“When a patient with acute myeloid leukaemia is given the new experimental treatments they are monitored to see how effective the drug is and how the patient’s genetic variations impact a treatment’s success.”

There are 19 specialist Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres in the UK. The aim of these centres is to bring together cancer doctors, research nurses and lab scientists to make clinical trials of new treatments quicker and easier.

Dr Sally Burtles, director of centres at Cancer Research UK, said: “This cutting edge research will enable us to find more targeted and effective ways to treat people with leukaemia.

“Leukaemia can be difficult to treat because the disease spreads widely through the body – as it is not a solid tumour it cannot be treated with surgery and so it is even more crucial to develop the right drugs to treat this disease. This trial allows us to enter into an exciting new era of tailored drug development to manage and treat the disease.

“Making the leap from something that looks promising in the laboratory to testing it in patients is one of the most challenging and expensive steps in drug development – and this is the key reason why we’ve committed to establishing these Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres – to speed up this process and bridge that gap.

“The 19 Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres across the UK give cancer patients new opportunities to participate in early trials for the latest, most innovative and exciting anti-cancer treatments in development.”


For media enquiries please contact Cancer Research UK press office on or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.