Dr Ian Majewski
Chief investigator: Dr
Institute: The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Project title: Identifying mechanisms that prevent leukaemia
cells responding to therapy
Disease focus: Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
Funding period: 2014
Dr Ian Majewski is identifying genetic changes that allow acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) cells to resist chemotherapy drugs.
In this project, he is analysing DNA and RNA extracted from cell samples of patients with core binding factor (CBF) AML. Using a range of techniques, he is comparing the genomes of patients who respond and those who fail treatment with the commonly used chemotherapy drugs cytarabine and fludarabine.
Even with best available chemotherapy, up to 40% of patients with CBF-AML relapse within two years due to resistance, according to Dr Majewski.
“Thanks to rapid advances in the field of genomics, we know that cancer cells are highly dynamic, accumulating ongoing genetic changes that help them to sidestep even the most advanced therapies,” he said.
“The next frontier in treating cancer is understanding the genetic changes that make cancer resistant to therapy.
“By identifying the genetic changes and the specific genes that are associated with poor response to therapy in acute myeloid leukaemia cells we can develop new prognostic tools for predicting which patients will have a high risk of failing standard therapy.
“In the longer term, we hope to develop models of therapy resistance that can be harnessed to discover new treatments that will overcome therapy resistance.”
The Leukaemia Foundation also awarded a clinical PhD Scholarship (2014) to Dr Edward Chew to identify genetic changes characterising CBF-AML.