Led by Professor Mark von Itzstein at Griffith’s Institute for Glycomics, Queensland and Professor John Groffen at The Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, the team undertook a glycomics approach to find potential next generation drugs to treat childhood leukaemia.
The preliminary study has explored, for the first time, changes to leukaemic cells, associated with carbohydrates, and this has opened new pathways for potential drug treatment.
“Our exciting preliminary study has shown that the development of leukaemia in a mouse model is accompanied by changes in the expression of “glyco” genes (genes that are associated with carbohydrate expression),” Professor von Itzstein said.
“This gives us a better understanding of how carbohydrates on blood cells are changed in leukaemia and this knowledge provides us exciting new opportunities for drug discovery.”
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. The incidence of ALL is on the rise despite substantial advances in treatment during the past 40 years and the rate of long term survival has reached a plateau, approximately 80 per cent for children and 55 per cent for adults.
“This plateau is in part due to some leukaemic cells becoming resistant to available therapies. New drugs, operating by different mechanisms, are desperately needed to help tackle this life-threatening disease,” Professor von Itzstein said.
The Institute for Glycomics was established in 2000 at the Gold Coast Campus of Griffith University, the focus of the Institute’s research is to discover the roles carbohydrates play in disease and ageing. Using this knowledge, the Institute is developing novel drugs and vaccines to interfere with the carbohydrated-related biological process of disease. This approach presents an exciting therapeutic platform for the control of a wide-range of medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, inflammation and immune disorders. The Institute is the only one of its kind in Australia and only one of six in the world. The Institute for Glycomics seeks to collaborate with leading scientists around the world to build a critical mass around carbohydrate-based research. Global collaboration together with a mutil-disciplinary approach to research, are essential to achieving our vision to bring forward novel medicines and vaccines to the community.”