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Investigating the Role of Circadian Rhythm in the Progression of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Boston Children’s Hospital
Samantha Morris, PhD
Grant Type: 
Young Investigator Grants
Year Awarded: 
Type of Childhood Cancer: 
Project Description: 

Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer; it is disease of the blood that begins when normal blood cells become unhealthy and grow uncontrollably. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the bone marrow - the tissue in the body responsible for making blood cells. AML is the second most common childhood leukemia and accounts for around 35% of childhood deaths from leukemia. In AML, the bone marrow makes abnormal, cancerous cells called myeloblasts. These cells divide uncontrollably to take over the bone marrow, and can eventually collect in the bloodstream.

The myeloblasts can build up in the organs of the body, and prevent the bone marrow from making blood normally. Relatively little is known about what triggers AML, and there is still a lot we do not understand about how the disease progresses.

We have recently uncovered a potential link between the uncontrollable growth of AML blood cells and circadian rhythm. This is a rhythm that repeats about every 24 hours -  a biological clock that is responsible for our built-in cycles, such as feeding and sleeping at the right times of day. AML is more likely to occur if these body clocks are disrupted, but it is not known exactly why this is the case.

Project Goal
In my proposed research, I will investigate if loss of these biological rhythms is responsible for AML cell growth. This may identify new molecules involved in AML that could be targeted to develop new drugs.