Programme Updates

Programme Contacts

University of Cambridge
Department of Haematology
University of Cambridge
Department of Haematology
Department of Haematology
Programme Manager

Selected publications

Genetics allows personalised disease predictions for chronic blood cancers

Scientists have developed a successful method to make truly personalised predictions of future disease outcomes for patients with certain types of chronic blood cancers. Researchers including co-programme lead Professor Tony Green and members from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, and their collaborators, combined extensive genetic and clinical information to predict the prognosis for patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms. The research also identified eight different genetic subgroups of the disease that link with patterns of clinical disease and patient prognosis. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this work could lead to personalised medicine for patients with these blood cancers. It will help doctors identify those patients who are likely to have a very good future outlook, and which patients may benefit from specific treatments or clinical trials.

Blood Cancer Awareness Month

Throughout Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September we posted updates from our programme on our Twitter account @CRUKCamHaem including latest research and publications, and a chance to find out more about some of our programme members. Visit our meet our researchers page to find out more about the work of Professor Bertie Gottgens and PhD students Rebecca Caeser and Antonella Santoro. 

New research reveals earliest step of lymphoid differentiation

Blood stem cells produce all blood cell types throughout life, including red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout our body and white blood cells called lymphocytes that help us fight infections. New research using cutting-edge single cell technologies reveals that the regulation of the balance between red and white blood cell production, already occurs within the blood stem cell compartment and not later on as originally thought. In a study published today in Nature Communications, the Laurenti Lab identified a novel subtype of long-lived blood stem cells that cannot produce red blood cells, but only produce lymphocytes. This cell type is likely play a role during ageing and in the development of blood cancers, where the production of all mature blood cell types is highly imbalanced.

6th Cambridge International Stem Cell Symposium

The 6th Cambridge International Stem Cell Symposium took place from the 19th - 21st September and brought together biological, clinical and physical stem cell scientists, working across multiple tissues and at different scales, to share data, discuss ideas and address the biggest fundamental and translational questions in stem cell biology. Nearly 500 delegates came together at the event which included talks in the field of Haematological Malignancies from international speakers and from programme members Dr Elisa Laurenti, Dr David Kent and Dr Cedric Ghevaert

Family tree of blood production reveals hundreds of thousands of stem cells

Research published in Nature has revealed that adult humans have many more blood-creating stem cells in their bone marrow than previously thought, ranging between 50,000 and 200,000 stem cells. Haematological Malignancies Programme researchers based at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Wellcome – MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute developed a new approach for studying stem cells, based on methods used in ecology. Programme member and joint senior author Dr David Kent said: “This new approach is hugely flexible. Not only can we measure how many stem cells exist, we can also see how related they are to each other and what types of blood cells they produce. Applying this technique to samples from patients with blood cancers, we should now be able to learn how single cells outcompete normal cells to expand their numbers and drive a cancer. As the cost of genomic sequencing comes down, it is transforming scientific research such that studies previously thought to be impossibly large, are now becoming routine. It is a very exciting time to be working in this space.”

Cambridge Lymphoma Biology International Symposium

The Cambridge Lymphoma Biology International Symposium took place from the 17th – 18th July in the historic setting of St John’s College, co-chaired by Programme members Dr Dan Hodson and Dr Ingo Ringshausen. The symposium brought together the European Lymphoma community at the biggest research focussed lymphoma conference in Europe with 130 researchers, clinicians, staff and students attending from 28 countries. Talks focused on work from leading labs working on Lymphoma and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) with the plenary talk given by Klaus Rejewsky from the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin. The Dennis-Cook poster prize was awarded jointly to Rebecca Caeser (University of Cambridge) and Rita Barbosa (Francis Crick Institute). The event also incorporated the Third Cancer Core Europe Lymphoma Meeting. The symposium was supported by CRUK, the British Society for Haematology, Lonza, Miltenyi and Pan Biotech.

By Paulo Henrique Orlandi MBone marrow aspirate showing acute myeloid leukaemia with Auer rods in several myeloblasts by Paulo Henrique Orlandi Mourao CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commonsourao CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons
Roots of Leukaemia reveal possibility of predicting people at risk

An international team of researchers have found that patients with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) had genetic changes in their blood years before they suddenly developed the disease. The study, published in the journal Nature, found that blood tests looking for changes in the DNA code can reveal the roots of AML in healthy people. Haematological Malignancies Programme Member Dr George Vassiliou, one of the joint leaders on the study said: “Our study provides for the first time evidence that we can identify people at risk of developing AML many years before they actually develop this life-threatening disease. We hope to build on these findings to develop robust screening tests for identifying those at risk and drive research into how to prevent or stall progression towards AML. Our aspiration is that one day AML prevention would provide a compelling alternative to treatment.” 

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia AML
Leukaemia protective role of Y chromosome gene discovered

Scientists have discovered the first leukaemia protective gene that is specific to the male-only Y chromosome. In a study led by Haematological Malignancies Programme Lead Professor Brian Huntly and Haematological Malignancies Programme Member Dr George Vassiliou, researchers found that this Y-chromosome gene protects against the development of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and other cancers.