2020-GCU blood cancer researcher wins top grant

GCU cancer researcher wins prestigious grant for lifesaving work

Mon, 12 Oct 2020 15:24:00 BST

GCU blood cancer scientist Dr Mark Williams has been awarded this year’s British Society for Haematology (BSH) Visiting Fellow Grant of £17,997 to continue his potentially lifesaving research into Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

The prestigious accolade is only awarded once a year and the title of Dr William’s grant is ‘Macrophage mediated chemoresistance in AML: from macrophage subset characterisation to the potential for therapeutic targeting’.

Dr Williams, lecturer in Cell and Molecular Biology in the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, said he was “honoured” to receive the grant from BSH.

This grant will enable Dr Williams to continue his cutting-edge cancer research studies in the laboratory of his long-term collaborator and world-leading AML expert, Dr Monica Guzman, at Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University in New York, for a two-month period in 2021.

Dr Williams said: “It is a huge honour to have been awarded this prestigious grant from the BSH. It means that I can return to New York to work with Monica, one of the worlds-leading AML experts in the world. It is fantastic news.”

In a letter of congratulations, the BSH told Dr Williams: “I would like to confirm the success of your application for the BSH Visiting Fellow Grant. We are delighted to be able to offer you support to the full requested amount of £17,997. Thanks again for applying to the BSH - we wish you every success and we hope that we can continue to work together.”

For the past three years, Dr Williams has been leading joint research studies with Dr Guzman.

Dr Williams explained his potentially lifesaving research in more detail: “Our initial findings have revealed that a certain type of macrophage (immune system cell), shields acute AML/blood cancer cell lines (cell lines are immortalised cells – they keep growing indefinitely, used by researchers to generate preliminary supporting data) from the killing effects of chemotherapy.

“This is particularly important as the development of cancer drug resistance is a major contributing factor towards poor survival rates, and quality of life in AML patients. 

“We have also shown that bone marrow samples from AML patients exhibit increased levels of a particular type of macrophage (M2-like/bad macrophage), that is associated with leukaemia-promoting functions, with lower levels of a M1-like/good anti-leukaemia macrophage shown to be decreased in AML patients.

“This funding will allow me to undertake cutting-edge research studies to isolate M2-like macrophages and leukaemic cells from the AML patients, and determine for the first time if these M2-like macrophage drive cancer drug resistance in AML.

“The  findings from this research could provide the rationale for the development of a new wave of cancer drugs, aimed at blocking macrophage-driven drug resistance in AML, which in the long-term, and could potentially lead to improved clinical outcomes in AML patients.”