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We are investigating the link between human fetal haematopoiesis and the origin and biology of childhood leukaemia. In particular, we are interested in the pathogenesis of infant leukaemia, which is a refractory disease that invariably originates in utero.

Lab team

The focus of research in the Childhood Leukaemia group is to study prenatal B lymphopoiesis in order to understand the origins of childhood leukaemia, in particular infant acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Infant ALL invariably originates before birth and MLL gene rearrangement is often sufficient to cause leukaemic transformation without additional genetic abnormalities. Our research aims to identify and characterise the poorly understood target cell population responsible for in utero initiation of infant ALL. In order to understand the origins of infant ALL we have characterised prenatal human B cell hierarchy for the first time, thereby identifying specific ontogeny related developmental programmes and a possible fetal specific target cell for infant ALL These data are crucial in understanding how changes in B lymphopoiesis through the human lifetime influence the biology of leukaemias that originate at different ages. We now want to characterise the unique prenatal B progenitors by detailed immunophenotypic, functional and molecular studies in order to determine whether they may be a substrate for leukaemia initiating hits in infant ALL. This approach will allow us to identify pathways that can be targeted for future therapies in infant ALL. We also aim to create a low-cost model of care for infant ALL in resource-poor settings, and have started collaboration with centres in India in order to deliver this.

Dr Roy is also a member of Prof Irene Roberts’ team investigating how trisomy 21 perturbs haematopoiesis before birth and its implications for Down syndrome associated leukaemias in children, in particular DS-ALL.

Current opportunities available:

Studentships: NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars program (2021 start) in collaboration with Dr Stefan Muljo (NIH-NIAID)

Our team

Selected publications

Related research themes