Novel research into cell signalling abnormalities in leukaemia cells has been funded by blood cancer research charity, Leukaemia & Myeloma Research UK’s (LMRUK) annual grant scheme.
Dr Rhys Morgan, a leukaemia researcher and lecturer in Biomedical Science, has been given the green light to start the first phase of a new research pilot into the oncogenic protein, β-catenin and how it controls protein expression in leukaemia cells.
Thanks to the grant funding from LMRUK, Dr Morgan can undertake cutting edge sequencing analyses to understand how β-catenin controls the critical steps between gene activation and protein expression; a process frequently hijacked by blood cancer cells.
“These funds have allowed us to perform an expensive, but highly informative, technique called RNA sequencing (RNAseq) to understand how the cancer promoting protein β-catenin causes inappropriate gene activation in leukaemia cells, an analysis not previously undertaken before.
“We have evidence to suggest that β-catenin may hijack the critical steps between DNA activation and protein formation to promote the activity of genes which increase leukaemia cell growth and survival. Understanding these mechanisms in more detail could lead to the design of new treatments which disrupt this activity and halt leukaemia development and progression.
“The evidence for this first emerged from a scientific paper we published back in 2019, however without such vital funding from charities like LMRUK, we simply wouldn’t be able to pursue these promising avenues of research. The hard work of the charity’s volunteers and fundraisers does not go unnoticed, and I’d like them to know they are making a real difference to researchers like myself,” said Dr Morgan.
The research will be undertaken in the Biochemistry and Biomedicine department at the University of Sussex. Dr Morgan’s laboratory operates within the newly established Haematology Research Group, a network of collaborative research groups across the School of Life Sciences and Brighton & Sussex Medical School with shared interests in haematology.
Dr Morgan is no stranger to LMRUK’s grant scheme, having been on the expert panel of the charity’s Research Review Committee since 2020. However, for this year’s review and judging process, he was excluded from discussions around his own application in the interest of impartiality and transparency.
Dr Joanna Tilley, Operations Director at LMRUK said: “Our charity focuses on investing in vital research into the nature, causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of blood cancer in the hope of protecting the next generation from this disease.
“The generous donations we receive from our fantastic supporters enables us to continue investing in potentially life-saving research through our grant scheme, which continues to make a real difference in the fight against blood cancer.
“We’re thrilled to be able to fund Dr Rhys Morgan on the first and most crucial first phase of his fascinating research and we wish him all the best in developing his findings, which will support our work in finding more effective treatments to fight blood cancer.”
For more information on LMRUK’s Research Grant Scheme, visit: https://lmruk.org/research.