2 million euros for innovative therapy in the fight against acute leukemia

(11-06-2021) Thanks to the call 'Strategic Basic Research 2020-2021', 2 million euros is provided for research into a new treatment for acute leukemia, a research project by Professor Steven Goossens of Ghent University.

The reason for this is the announcement of the 16 selected SBO research projects for new valuable economic or social products or services. Ghent University is a research partner in 9 of these successful projects, 4 of which are coordinated by Ghent University. An example is the research of the team around professor Steven Goossens (Cancer Research Institute Ghent (CRIG) - UGent) into acute leukemia. That project was positively evaluated by international expert panels, with an academic, industrial and social background.CRIG III.PNG

Acute leukemia is an aggressive form of blood cancer in which the bone marrow is damaged by an uncontrolled division of white blood cells. The most commonly used treatment is intensive chemotherapy, whether or not combined with a stem cell transplant. But even with such intensive treatment, acute leukemia remains a difficult to cure and life-threatening cancer. The team led by Prof. Steven Goossens will conduct research into an innovative therapeutic strategy. With support from the Cancer Research Institute Ghent (CRIG), the researchers have recently identified new oncogenes that play an important role in the development of this difficult-to-treat blood cancer. The consortium of cancer researchers is convinced that temporarily suppressing or targeting these oncogenes can offer a new therapeutic treatment for these patients.

The identified oncogenes essential for the growth and survival of acute leukemia cells are transcription factors. Traditionally, these transcription factors have been considered unfavorable, too risky therapeutic targets, because they perform their functions in the nucleus of the cell and are therefore more difficult to reach and disrupt. Recent technological developments make it increasingly possible to develop drugs that can disrupt the functions of these transcription factors. By refining these revolutionary technologies, the research team around Professor Goossens aims to improve the treatment options and the prognosis of patients with acute leukemia. A promising study, according to SBO experts and Minister of Science Policy Hilde Crevits, who provides 2 million euros in financial support.

“Professor Goossens' promising research project into a new treatment for acute leukemia fits perfectly within the Strategic Basic Research (SBO) programme, which provides the necessary funding for innovative and groundbreaking research in Flanders with a concrete innovative application in mind. Acute leukemia is not only one of the most common cancers in children and young people, but can also affect elderly. It is one of the most deadly and difficult to treat cancers. The importance of new research and new therapies is therefore great.” - Hilde Crevits
Prof. Steven Goossens.PNGProfessor Steven Goossens (CRIG-UGent): “With this project we want to translate our recent research results into clinical applications. The financial support makes it possible to carry out this project with the best available technologies and with a team of fundamental researchers, doctors and Flemish Biotech/Pharmaceutical companies, which will accelerate the translation into clinical practice. By combining our expertise and collaborating intensively, something we have been strongly committed to in Ghent since the start of the Cancer Research Institute Ghent (CRIG) and other interdisciplinary research platforms, we guarantee that the money is used in the most efficient way. In this way, we hope to significantly improve the survival chances and quality of life of patients with acute leukemia in the future.”
dr. Dominic De Groote, CRIG business development team: “We are also pleased with the strong support that this project has received from a range of leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies in Flanders, who will actively strive to translate the new knowledge into further industry-driven development processes to effectively bring new medicines to the patient.”