Professor Andi Roy, Department of Paediatrics, has become one of five researchers to receive the new Cancer Research UK–Children with Cancer UK Innovation Award. It will fund her new project “Developing a new way to treat a type of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) using the immune system”.
Co-funded by Cancer Research UK and Children with Cancer UK, she is one of 5 leaders in their field have been awarded up to £1 million each to delve into the biology of children’s and young people’s cancers, with the hope of finding new ways to prevent and treat these complex cancers.
Despite improvements in overall survival over the last 40 years, cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease in children and young people (aged 1-24) in the UK. Some of these types of cancer continue to have low survival rates and many who survive do so with serious long-term side effects.
A form of ALL known as Mixed Lineage Leukaemia (MLL) gene rearranged infant ALL (MLLr-iALL) has poor survival. CAR T-cell therapy, which uses modified versions of a patient’s T cells to attack their cancer, is often used to treat leukaemia. But using this potentially life-saving treatment in very young patients is limited. This is because it’s very difficult to obtain T cells from them, as these patients have already gone through intensive chemotherapy and are often immunocompromised.
Dr Anindita Roy and Professor Anastasios Karadimitris of Imperial College London, plan to test a new way of treating the disease by adapting this therapy to use a different type of immune cell called invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells that can be taken ‘off the shelf’. They hope this CAR-iNKT cell therapy will be a more effective way of treating these very young patients.