Combating drug resistance in leukaemia patients is the focus of new research being undertaken by the University of Newcastle.
The Cancer Council NSW will provide Dr Nikki Verrills, from the University's School of Biomedical Sciences, $300,000 over the next three years to test the effectiveness of a new class of chemotherapy drug.
Dr Verrills said despite advances in leukaemia treatment, over time many patients were no longer benefiting from new chemotherapy drugs.
"The introduction of new chemotherapy drugs revolutionised the treatment of patients suffering from some types of leukaemia and had fewer side effects than previous approaches," Dr Verrills said.
"However, resistance has emerged to these specific chemotherapy drugs which have resulted in relapse and eventually patients succumbing to the disease. Currently there is no available treatment for these drug-resistant patients."
Research already undertaken by Dr Verrills and her collaborators in Ohio, USA, found that a protein called PP2A is inactive in leukaemia cells, and that PP2A re-activating drugs inhibit the growth and survival of leukaemia cells.
The new research will involve testing the effectiveness of PP2A re-activating drugs in models of chemotherapy-resistant leukaemia.
"This research will help us better understand how leukaemia cells become resistant to current drug treatments. Ultimately we hope our findings will lead to clinical trials of these new re-activating drugs, and eventually improved survival rates for leukaemia sufferers," Dr Verrills said.
Dr Verrills is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Peter Doherty Fellow. She undertakes her research in the University of Newcastle's School of Biomedical Sciences in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s (HMRI) Cancer Research Program.
The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
Dr Verrills is available for phone interviews after 2.30pm Thursday 27 March.