Dr Andrea Newbold
Researcher: Dr Andrea Newbold
Institute: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (VIC)
Project title: Studying
the cellular changes that drive the
initiation and progression of myeloid leukaemia
Disease focus: Acute myeloid leukaemia
Annual Funding: $100,000
Funding period: 2015-2017
Dr Andrea Newbold is using sophisticated models of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) to develop new combination treatment regimens as well as to understand the molecular interplay between genetic and epigenetic changes driving this blood cancer. Epigenetics is a term used to describe systems/pathways that control the expression of genes. These regulatory activities occur within the cells. Cumulative damage (often caused by environmental factors and/or stress and illness) can lead to ‘epigenetic lesions’ involved in cancers. Epigenetic damage is different to genetic damage as it doesn’t lead to any change in the DNA.
According to Dr Newbold, AML is thought to arise from mutations in two classes of genes – known as Class I and Class II mutations.
“Class I and II mutations can occur in different combinations and it is not yet known how these different combinations affect therapies. In addition, we also suspect that damage to the epigenetic pathways controlling the expression of the Class II genes may be important to AML and offer another potential drug target.
“To help improve AML treatment outcomes, my overall aim is develop an accurate model of AML. In particular, I’m identifying proteins and regulatory pathways involving both classes of mutations and the epigenetic lesions, which are important in the onset and development of AML.
“With this knowledge, it will be possible to devise combination therapy approaches to treat AML, targeting proteins and pathways that are important for both classes of mutations.”
Using laboratory models, Dr Newbold is trialling several new drugs that target epigenetic lesions regulating the Class II mutations. After identifying one or more potential drugs, Dr Newbold will see if different Class I mutations alter the effectiveness of the drugs.
Dr Newbold hopes to generate enough pre-clinical data to translate new combination therapies for AML into a Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre clinical trial study. Her research also could provide a platform for evaluating drug targets and testing anti-cancer therapies.
This research project is under the supervision of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Assistant Director of Research, Gene Regulation Laboratory Head Professor Ricky Johnstone – a recipient of previous Leukaemia Foundation grants.