Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer, and ALL-T accounts for 20% of these cancers, peaking at 2-5 years of age. Although this cancer originates in the thymus, it spreads throughout the body and is rapidly lethal without treatment. Current treatments for T-ALL achieve good survival rates of 90% in children, but with serious side effects that impair their long-term quality of life. What’s more, around 50% of adolescents and 60% of adults succumb to T-ALL. In contrast, acute myeloblastic leukemia is more common in adults with a low long-term survival rate, despite intensive high-dose chemotherapy.
The team has previously shown that leukemic stem cells that are spared by current treatment actually depend on their interactions with a niche for survival, revealing a vulnerability that they propose to exploit in order to develop new compounds that prevent this critical interaction. The project involves a multidisciplinary team of researchers working in synergy from bench to bedside at three universities: IRIC-Université de Montréal, MUHC and Université de Sherbrooke, as well as CHU Sainte-Justine.