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The University of Southampton

Southampton researchers unlock secrets of most common type of leukaemia

Published: 10 June 2008

Researchers at the University of Southampton are testing patients along the South coast in order to gain further understanding of the causes of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), the commonest form of leukaemia in adults.

Blood cancer charity Leukaemia Research has awarded Dr Jonathon Strefford £435,000 to carry out the research at Southampton General Hospital, which will involve testing patients for any abnormalities in their genetic code which may be causing their disease.

To date, little is known about how important a person’s genetic make-up is to his or her susceptibility to CLL. Dr Strefford aims to find out, as he explained: “I am using state-of-the-art technology that literally provides a million answers to scientific questions in a single experiment. This type of approach investigates the entire genetic code of a patient with CLL and allows minute changes to be identified that may be contributing to the patient’s disease.”

The new three-year study is designed to have direct benefits for patients with this form of leukaemia. Dr Strefford described his hopes for the research: “CLL develops at different rates in different people, so if we could test for ‘clues’ in the DNA of patients at diagnosis we would be able to predict how quickly their disease will progress. We can then treat patients specifically based on their genetic make up and we will have a better idea how certain people will react to certain treatments.”

Leukaemia Research Scientific Director Dr David Grant said: “This research is very exciting – by identifying genetic ‘markers’ for this type of leukaemia, we will be able to predict how a patient’s disease will develop and treat them accordingly.”

John Murrell of the Southampton Fundraising Branch of Leukaemia Research says: “It’s very rewarding to be part of the fundraising team here in Southampton, knowing that all our efforts are helping to make exciting projects like this possible. Continual research is steadily improving the prospects of leukaemia patients.”

Leukaemia Research currently has nearly £6 million invested in blood cancer research in Southampton.

Notes for editors

  • Over the next five years, Leukaemia Research urgently needs to raise over £100 million to commit to new research. From basic laboratory research to clinical trials with patients, Leukaemia Research is committed to saving lives by funding high quality, carefully selected research throughout the UK.
  • Leukaemia Research is the only national charity devoted exclusively to improving treatments, finding cures and learning how to prevent leukaemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma and other lymphomas, myeloma and the related blood disorders, diagnosed in 24,500 people in the UK every year. Further information, including patient information booklets, is available from or call 020 7405 0101.
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