Leukaemia Biology Group
The aim of the group is to further the understanding of the biology of human Leukaemia Stem Cells, in order to identify genes and cellular pathways that are critical for their function and which could be targeted by novel therapies.
Hierarchical maintenance of MLL myeloid leukemia stem cells employs a transcriptional program shared with embryonic rather than adult stem cells.The genetic programs that promote retention of self-renewing leukemia stem cells (LSCs) at the apex of cellular hierarchies in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are not known. In a mouse model of human AML, LSCs exhibit variable frequencies that correlate with the initiating MLL oncogene and are maintained in a self-renewing state by a transcriptional subprogram more akin to that of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) than to that of adult stem cells. The transcription/chromatin regulatory factors Myb, Hmgb3, and Cbx5 are critical components of the program and suffice for Hoxa/Meis-independent immortalization of myeloid progenitors when coexpressed, establishing the cooperative and essential role of an ESC-like LSC maintenance program ancillary to the leukemia-initiating MLL/Hox/Meis program. Enriched expression of LSC maintenance and ESC-like program genes in normal myeloid progenitors and poor-prognosis human malignancies links the frequency of aberrantly self-renewing progenitor-like cancer stem cells (CSCs) to prognosis in human cancer.