Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and Queen’s University Belfast have been awarded a £280,000 funding boost from Blood Cancer UK. It forms part of Blood Cancer UK’s latest funding for the illness, which is the fifth most common cause of cancer in the UK.
Relatively little is known about the causes of a group of blood cancer called myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), affecting approximately 4,000 people in the UK every year.
During MPN your body produces too many of a particular blood cell. While little is known about the causes of MPNs, research has shown many cancers are caused by genetic alterations that people are born with as well as things that they are exposed to during their life.
Professor Lesley Anderson and her team plan to look at data and samples from people with MPN to identify small changes in our DNA that might be responsible for causing the disease.
She also hopes to combine this and look at other environmental factors such as where these people live, what job they do and other factors as these things can “turn on” or “turn off” genes, which can also influence the chance of someone developing some cancers.
Using the world’s largest case-control study of MPNs (the MOSAICC study) where one group has MPN and the other doesn’t, the team will look at interactions between genes and the environment. The work will also include 50 samples of a new approach to identify these genetic and environmental changes.
Professor Lesley Anderson from the University of Aberdeen said: “This research is important as it has the potential to help increase our understanding of how MPN develops. Using data and samples from patients across the UK could help us prevent MPNs, improve diagnosis and develop new and better ways to treat people with the disease. Ultimately it could mean that people with MPNs can be diagnosed faster and given better treatments that more effectively target the cancer.”
Sarah McDonald, Deputy Director of Research at Blood Cancer UK, said: “Blood cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer in the UK, with 40,000 diagnosed every year, yet so many people are unaware that MPNs are a blood cancer. Understanding the genetics underpinning the development of blood cancers will help us develop new treatments against the disease.”