Professor Alan Burnett
Professor Alan Burnett is Head of Haematology in the Department of Medical Genetics, Haematology and Pathology at the School of Medicine.
Professor Burnett has been key to Cardiff’s recognition for its world-class research into the adult leukaemia - acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). He has lead the UK national trials in this disease for more than 20 years which have now become world’s biggest trials on the disease.
The group’s work was recognised recently when Cardiff was named by the national blood charity, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, as its first Centre of Excellence. He also leads the Cardiff Experimental Cancer Medical Centre, funded by Cancer Research UK, to develop new treatments for cancers, which is substantially based on his own group’s introduction of novel treatments in leukaemia.
There is increasing recognition that leukaemic stem cells are responsible for maintaining the disease and for causing resistance to conventional chemotherapy in some patients which can be monitored by detailed immunological monitoring. Professor Burnett’s group has a range of activities, including the clinical trials of new therapeutic agents targeting leukaemic stem cells in AML.
The group has recently received Programme funding to identify new targets for therapy in diseases with high mortality rates, using a genetic database from more than 1,000 patients. Part of this research will investigate whether abnormalities can be found in leukaemic stem cells and whether such abnormalities play a role in the development of the disease.
Professor Burnett’s group will work with The European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute across the range of its activities.
Professor Burnett said: “We know that cancer stem cells exist for leukaemia. We also know that conventional treatments like chemotherapy have limited success in eradicating them.
“The molecular and immunophenotypic characterisation of the leukaemic stem cells provide opportunities to develop ways of monitoring current treatments and also to develop treatments that target these features without inhibiting the function of normal cells around them. It’s quite likely that such findings will also apply to some other cancers, so with The European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, there is an opportunity to take a similar approach in solid tumours.”