DPHIL SUPERVISOR PROFILE
BSc (Hons), PhD
Professor of Molecular Haematology
Molecular pathogenesis of the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), including the 5q- syndrome
Molecular pathogenesis of the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
My research studies concern the investigation of the molecular pathogenesis of myeloid malignancies, including the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
My work has focused on MDS, a heterogeneous group of clonal myeloid disorders. My studies have been instrumental in the determination of the molecular pathogenesis of several subtypes of MDS including the 5q- syndrome and refractory anaemia with ring sideroblasts (RARS). Our research identified the commonly deleted region of the del(5q) in the 5q- syndrome and showed that p53 activation underlies the anaemia in this disorder.
Using next generation sequencing technology we have illuminated the molecular landscape of MDS and the genetic basis of disease progression to AML. Our study of the MDS transcriptome has yielded valuable insights into the molecular pathophysiology of MDS, and has identified new prognostic markers and therapeutic targets for this disorder. More recently we have provided deep insights into how gene mutations drive the changes in the MDS transcriptome.
Splicing factor genes are the most commonly mutated genes in MDS, and we have identified novel aberrantly spliced genes and dysregulated pathways in splicing factor mutant MDS haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Mutation of the splicing factor SF3B1 is strongly associated with the MDS subtype RARS and we have implicated aberrant splicing of the downstream target gene ABCB7 in the pathophysiology of RARS. In a recent collaborative study, we have shown that U2AF1 mutations induce oncogenic isoforms of the target gene IRAK4 and hyperactivate NF-kB signalling in myeloid malignancies. We are currently using single-cell analysis to determine the transcriptomic changes occurring in the stem cell population of splicing factor mutant MDS. Our data have critical implications for understanding MDS phenotypic heterogeneity and support the development of therapies targeting splicing abnormalities.
We are also using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing together with induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to model chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia and for drug discovery.
I have served on several advisory committees and scientific panels, including for NHLBI, Leukaemia UK and the International Working Group for the Prognosis of MDS. I am a committee member and trustee of the UK MDS Forum. I am a member of numerous Editorial Boards of scientific journals, including Blood and the British Journal of Haematology, and I am an Associate Editor of Molecular Biotechnology.