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Worldwide Cancer Research supports project on acute myeloid leukemia

Studying the role of the bone marrow microenvironment in the progression and relapse of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and developing new treatments are the main objectives of the project led by physician and researcher Delfim Duarte, recently funded by Worldwide Cancer Research with 235 thousand euros. The work will be carried out over 3 years at the i3S, in collaboration with the Porto IPO, in the context of the Porto.Comprehensive Cancer Center Raquel Seruca.

AML is the most common acute leukemia in adults, although it affects people of all ages, including children. It is a rare form of blood cancer, which results from the mutation of cells that reside in the bone marrow (hematopoietic, stem and progenitor cells), and has a rapid and aggressive evolution, which is why it is associated with a high mortality rate. One of the main problems caused by AML is the persistence of the disease after chemotherapy treatment, which leads to recurrence.

Researcher Delfim Duarte, leader of the “Hematopoiesis and Microenvironments” group, aims to find new treatments to improve the survival of patients with AML. To achieve this, he will focus on an innovative approach centered on bone marrow cells that do not produce blood cells, but which provide a microenvironment that allows them to form.

More specifically, the researcher will focus on bone marrow stromal cells, since, he explains, “previous studies show that these cells that make up the bone marrow microenvironment promote the growth and support the survival of malignant AML cells”. In this study, he adds that “we will use innovative microscopy techniques, preclinical animal models of AML and patient samples to precisely identify the identity of these cells in the microenvironment”. The objective will be to characterize this microenvironment in the initial phase of the disease and at relapse.

After this, Delfim Duarte's team will “manipulate the identified factors with the aim of developing new treatments”. To achieve this, researchers will use genetic animal models to manipulate the identified factors and thus inhibit the protection of the microenvironment. Subsequently, and based on the results obtained, “new pharmacological treatments will be tested so that they can have clinical application in the future”.

About Worldwide Cancer Research

Worldwide Cancer Research is a Scottish non-profit institution that funds basic or fundamental research around the world with the aim of helping scientists ask big new questions about how cancer works and laying the foundations for a cancer cure.

Founded in 1979, Worldwide Cancer Research has funded scientists from 35 countries to the tune of more than £200 million. The institution aims to support the initial phase of innovative research work by giving scientists the time and tools they need to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.