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Update on Betty Barton PhD student – Lara Doolan

Research - 2021

During lockdown and unable to go to the lab, I spent time analysing gene expression data to see which genes are associated with poor outcomes in leukaemia patients. I used data from The Cancer Genome Atlas to determine that one of the genes we see expressed in dormant leukaemia cells, PLXNC1, is associated with poor survival, independent of other known risk factors such as age, cytogenetic risk group and white blood cell count.

Since I have been able to get back into the lab, I have been screening FDA-approved drugs predicted to target dormant cells in a model for dormancy which uses an immortalised leukaemia cell line. I am now in the process of getting ready to move these drugs into patient samples, to find out which drugs are able to drive dormant cells back into the cell cycle and sensitise them to chemotherapy drugs like cytarabine.

I have also been working on using small molecules to improve how well frozen leukaemia samples grow to form colonies, so that we can maximise the amount of use we get from each sample. This means we will be able to do even more experiments using patient samples, even when they have been frozen for years

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