Dr Cedric Tremblay
Chief investigator: Dr
Institute: Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Monash
Project title: Finding new and more efficient treatments for T-cell
acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
Disease focus: Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
Funding period: 2014
Dr Cedric Tremblay is investigating possible new treatments for a type of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) which responds poorly to treatment.
Known as T-ALL, this type of leukaemia is characterised by mutations to genes controlling the production of immature T-cells (a type of immune cell). Dr Tremblay and his team have shown that these mutations lead to the activation of a transcription factor, STAT5, associated with poor outcome for T-ALL patients.
Dr Tremblay said: “From our research, we suspect that STAT5 activation is important to ‘immature T-cell progenitor’ acute lymphoblastic leukaemia development”.
“To understand the importance of STAT5 in this blood cancer, we’re developing a laboratory model to identify all the genes and signalling pathways involved in activating the protein.”
Dr Tremblay’s research group already has found that mutations of the genes controlling the Interleukin-7 (IL-7) signalling pathways result in the activation of STAT5 in T-ALL, but they suspect there are others.
In parallel, to this line of investigation, the team also is blocking the production of STAT5 via the IL-7 signalling pathways. IL-7 is critical to the immune system development and it appears the pathway could be essential to the progression of T-ALL.
The group is testing a new class of anti-cancer drugs that specifically target IL-7. If the results are promising, Dr Tremblay hopes to trial the drugs in combination with chemotherapy, in relapsed T-ALL with an immature phenotype.