My research interests focus on mechanisms of disease initiation and maintenance and the identification and validation of novel therapeutic targets in myeloid leukaemias. Specifically I study the role of adaptive responses to current therapies, including novel targeted therapies, in several subtypes of myeloid leukaemias and at leukaemic stem cell level, with a specific focus on the role of metabolic adaptations, as a mechanism of resistance not driven by genetic mutations.
My research interests focus on mechanisms of disease initiation and maintenance and the identification and validation of novel therapeutic targets in myeloid leukaemia. Sequencing and mechanistic studies have improved our understanding of the biology of several subtypes of myeloid leukaemias. This has in turn resulted in the development of more targeted and scientifically validated therapies. However, the overall treatment outcomes, even with the introduction of novel agents, remain suboptimal for most patients, mainly as a result of disease relapse. Both chronic and acute myeloid leukaemia arises in a haematopoietic stem or progenitor cell, which has the ability to self-renew, following the acquisition of recurrent driver mutations. This cell of origin, usually named the Leukaemia Stem Cell (LSC), represents the reservoir for relapse due to its inherent or acquired resistance to current therapies. Therefore, an improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms causing disease relapse, particularly at the LSC level, is required to improve patient outcome.
My research studies the role of adaptive responses to current therapies, including novel targeted therapies, in several subtypes of myeloid leukaemias and at LSC level, with a specific focus on the role of metabolic adaptations, as a mechanism of resistance not driven by genetic mutations. Using a combination of forward genetic screening and cell barcoding, functional characterisation and mechanistic studies, I aim to characterise the clonal dynamics in leukaemic cell populations under therapeutic stress, characterise the mechanisms leading to therapy resistance and identify novel therapeutic vulnerabilities to be targeted in combination with standard therapies in these conditions.
I am also interested in the role that the bidirectional cross-talk between altered metabolism and aberrant signalling and transcriptional programmes play in the establishment of myeloid leukaemias. I am specifically studying how metabolic intermediates interact with transcriptional programmes in acute myeloid leukaemia and conversely how specific driver mutations impact on cellular metabolism to enable leukaemic transformation.
Methodologies: human cell culture, CRISPR/Cas9, RNA-Seq, Mass Spectrometry, metabolic analysis, in vivo experiment.
Dr Christian Frezza, MRC Cancer Unit, Cambridge
Prof Brian Huntly, Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge
Dr George Vassiliou, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute/ Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge
Dr Vignir Helgason, Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow
Dr Keith Woodley, Dr Vilma Dembitz
I am a clinical academic haematologist with an interest in the biology and therapy of myeloid leukaemias. I studied Medicine in Naples, Italy, where I graduated in 2002. I then moved to the UK for my postgraduate medical training including my Haematology specialty training. I obtained my PhD, funded via an MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship, in Prof Holyoake lab in Glasgow in 2013, studying resistance mechanism of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) stem cells to BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitors. I was awarded the Royal College of Pathologist, UK Haematology Specialty Research Medal Award for this work. I then moved to Cambridge to complete my specialty training and worked as a Wellcome Trust funded Clinical Post-doctoral Fellow within Prof Brian Huntly lab where I have developed an independent research line focusing on the role of altered metabolism in the pathogenesis and therapy of myeloid leukaemias. I am clinically active at Consultant level with a leading role on design and set-up of clinical trials through my membership of the NCRI CML Working Group. I am already a principal investigator/sub-investigator on several clinical trials in myeloid malignancies. I have recently been awarded a CRUK Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellowship to start my independent research programme.Qualifications