Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are the most common adult myeloid malignancy in the UK and it has been estimated that around 8,000 and 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK and USA, respectively. MDS are a heterogeneous group of clonal haematopoietic stem cell disorders characterized by peripheral blood cytopenias and progenitor expansion. Approximately 30% of patients will transform to secondary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) which has a poor prognosis. There is no cure for MDS. Current management therapies include allogeneic haematopoietic cell transplantation, DNA methytransferase inhibitors (DNMTI), also termed hypomethylating agents (HMA), azacitidine or decitabine. Most MDS patients are not eligible for cell transplantation whilst azacitidine has been shown to modestly improve survival compared to standard care. Once patients stop responding to HMA therapy, however, outcomes are dismal, with a median survival of less than six months.
Using unbiased sequencing approaches, we (in collaboration with Washington University, USA) and others have identified mutations in 4 genes including SF3B1, SRSF2, U2AF1, and ZRSR2, which are involved in pre-mRNA splicing in ~50% of patients with MDS, making this cellular pathway the most commonly mutated in MDS. Current therapies were established prior to the fact that MDS has substantial splicing abnormalities and hence there is a need to identify novel therapeutic intervention targeting the over-active spliceosomal genes.
The major objectives of this project are to (a) investigate how overactive splicing contributes to disease pathogenesis and (b) determine whether re-purposing established drugs may provide therapeutic intervention.
The project will introduce the student to the broader areas of molecular genetics, biochemistry, drug discovery, pharmacology and translational medicine. The research activities will be undertaken at the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of Bradford. The studies will be performed in the recently renovated laboratories provided with state of the art equipments including high-throughput fluorescence and luminescence plate readers, QPCR machines, gel doc systems and modern tissue culture facilities. The research sits in the context of a highly active research environment at the University of Bradford.