Finding a new drug target for hard-to-treat leukaemia

Professor Tim Somervaille

Professor Tim Somervaille


Professor Tim Somervaille is an honorary consultant at The Christie and a senior group leader at the CRUK Manchester Institute. He has dedicated his research career to the study of a type of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which affects children and adults. Across Europe, fewer than 2 in 10 people diagnosed with AML survive the disease for 5 years or more, so it’s essential we find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

In 2012, Professor Somervaille and his team discovered a new drug target for AML called lysine specific demethylase 1 (LSD1). This molecule helps to support a cancerous cell type in AML called leukemic stem cells, which are thought to be linked to AML’s ability to reappear after initial treatment. Targeting LSD1 could help stop the disease from coming back for good.

Working together with CRUK’s Drug Discovery Unit in Manchester, Professor Somervaille created a new chemical compound that can target LSD1.

Following on from this incredible collaborative work, Phase 1 clinical trials started at The Christie and other sites in Europe in 2014 and encouraging results have led to Phase 2 trials. These trials will test the new drugs in combination with a type of chemotherapy as a first-line therapy and could one day save the lives of thousands of people with AML.