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Functional and molecular alterations of human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells in Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukaemia

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  • Full or part time
    Dr K Batta
    Dr D Wiseman
    Dr T Somervaille
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML) is a clonal stem cell neoplasm defined by abnormal monocytosis and dysplasia. Allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation is the only curative option for CMML, although advanced age and lack of suitable donors preclude many patients being considered for this therapy. There are few other treatment options for CMML patients and these are limited in significant part due to the poor understanding of the underlying mechanisms that drive disease progression. The bone marrow niche plays a critical role in maintaining haematopoietic stem cell maintenance and differentiation towards myeloid and lymphoid lineages. Recent evidence indicates that the bone marrow niche is altered in certain types of leukaemias and these alterations promote leukemia cell survival whilst inhibiting normal haematopoiesis. Taking into account that CMML generally affects older adults and that the aged microenvironment is less capable of supporting normal haematopoiesis, I hypothesize that a defective niche in CMML could play a critical and potentially targetable role in disease initiation and progression.

To test the overarching hypotheses, specific aims of the project are to 1) investigate alterations associated with CMML bone marrow niche 2) study the impact of CMML cells on the normal bone marrow niche. The prospective student will investigate whether bone marrow niche cells especially mesenchymal stem cells, which are major components of niche, in CMML patients are functionally and molecularly altered and if so what are the molecular mechanisms leading to these alterations. The student will also aim to understand the bidirectional cross talk between patient CMML cells and their niche using ex vivo cultures and in vivo transplantation studies combined with transcriptomic and epigenomic approaches. Understanding the niche-mediated regulation of haematopoietic cell dysfunction in CMML may highlight novel and much needed alternative/adjunctive therapeutic strategies in CMML, through targeted manipulation of the microenvironment to both impair CMML cell survival and restore normal background haematopoiesis.

Training/techniques to be provided

The proposed research project on understanding the cross talk between niche and tumor cells will provide opportunity for the student to develop skills in translational medicine. By joining my group and Manchester Cancer Research Centre, the prospective student will have access to and contact with a number of outstanding researchers working on translational cancer research.

The student will have the opportunity to present and discuss to take their findings to translational level. The proposed project was designed to obtain and develop new skills related transcriptomic and epigenomic analyses with the help of my training, core facilities available at Manchester Cancer Research Centre, and also external training programmes such as workshop of functional genomics held annually at Cambridge University. Throughout the studentship, I will mentor and train the student and provide opportunities to gain necessary skills needed for successful Ph.D.

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from exceptionally high calibre students, graduates or final year undergraduates who have, or are expected to obtain a first or upper second class honours degree and who are highly committed to pursuing a PhD in cancer research.

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


1. Itzykson R, Solary E. An evolutionary perspective on chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. Leukemia. 2013;27(7):1441-50.
2. Morrison SJ, Scadden DT. The bone marrow niche for haematopoietic stem cells. Nature. 2014;505(7483):327-34.
3. Medyouf H, Mossner M, Jann JC, Nolte F, Raffel S, Herrmann C, et al. Myelodysplastic Cells in Patients Reprogram Mesenchymal Stromal Cells to Establish a Transplantable Stem Cell Niche Disease Unit. Cell Stem Cell. 2014;14(6):824-37.
4. Arranz L, Sanchez-Aguilera A, Martin-Perez D, Isern J, Langa X, Tzankov A, et al. Neuropathy of haematopoietic stem cell niche is essential for myeloproliferative neoplasms. Nature. 2014;512(7512):78-+
5. Selimoglu-Buet D, Wagner-Ballon O, Saada V, Bardet V, Itzykson R, Bencheikh L, et al. Characteristic repartition of monocyte subsets as a diagnostic signature of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. Blood. 2015;125(23):3618-26

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