Improving the current therapy for blood malignancies

What is MDS/AML? 

Leukemia is a cancer that affects the blood. There are several types of leukemia, but we work with specific sub-types of blood cancer (MDS and AML, see info box for more information) of the myeloid type of blood cells. Myeloid blood cells are  involved in processes such as wound healing, blood clogging, oxygen transportation and the immune response. These cancers creates an imbalance in the pool of blood cells that governs these life essential processes, that if left unchecked, will lead to severe symptoms that are often lethal.

How did you come up with this idea?

The treatment for MDS and AML have seen improvement over the last 10 years, but there are still many patients that do not respond to treatment or develop resistance. Current chemotherapy is also often associated with impairing and unpleasant physical side-effects. There is an urgent need to address this negative aspect of cancer therapy. We are developing new prototype drugs which will improve the existing therapeutic options for MDS and AML patients.

A normal day at work, how does it look like?

As most Swedes, we kick off the day with a cup of coffee while we check our emails and review the schedule for the day. We then head to the laboratory to follow any ongoing experiments, run analysis and start new tests. Just before lunch time, we rush to another department to use their fancy equipment that allows us to determine the purity or effect of our inhibitors. We usually gather for lunch with other colleagues and have a relaxed chat over  coffee (or a cup of warm chocolate!). There’s a scheduled meeting after the lunch break and we head to a conference room where we present our latest findings to the rest of the group. There is always extra time allocated for questions and suggestions; discussions always fuel our curious spirits. Straight after the meeting we go back to the office with a brain buzzing full of ideas and devise a method that will allow us to prepare a really promising new prototype drug. Once everything is ready, we head into the laboratory and set up the new experiments that will put us on track to the desired molecule. Before leaving, we plan some more work for the following day and order an important reagent from a supplier abroad which will allow us to increase the yield of a key reaction. The afternoon is now over; time to head home and go out for a run.

Who are you?

There are about 10 people working on the leukemia project part time, all with different backgrounds and expertise. The core team who dedicates all their time on this project consists of Sabin, who is doing medicinal chemistry and Andreas, who is doing molecular biology. We are two guys currently enrolled in the post doctoral program at the Karolinska Institute. We joined the lab in the autumn of 2011, and have since been working hard trying to come up with a better alternative to the treatment leukemia patients receive today.

How is your research financed?

The Helleday Laboratory is financed by a number of charities and foundations. These institutions fund our research for periods of one to five years on average and with this money we pay the people who do the science and purchase the equipment and consumables required to do this work.

How can the public contribute?

Donations to any of these charities and foundations will indirectly support our research and other academic groups in Sweden working towards the same goal. If you would like to support us directly, please donate!

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