Rosetrees researcher profile: Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld, University of Cambridge

Who Rosetrees Trust is funding

Postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Nina Öbro, and clinical PhD student, Dr. Jacob Grinfeld, led this project with the aim of identifying new biomarkers in the early stages of blood cancer. The work was carried out in the research laboratory of Dr. David Kent, where work focuses on understanding how single blood stem cells are subverted to drive blood cancers. Many blood cancers are thought to arise from a series of mutations in blood stem cells, that cause an overproduction of blood cells, eventually leading to cancer. However, comparatively little is understood about the role played by the environment in which these cells reside, especially in the early stages of cancer development. This project therefore undertook an investigation of the proteins present in serum samples from patients with diseases known as chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) a powerful disease model for studying the early stages of tumours. Their approach was to identify novel biomarkers associated with cancer progression, and to uncover the biological role of these biomarkers in the emergence of blood cancer stem cells.

David said: “The recent explosion of genetic data in patients has led to some incredible advances in diagnosis and treatment, but it is very clear that mutations in genes cannot explain all the differences between patients. This project therefore set out to understand the cellular context in which these mutated cells reside – asking the question of whether specific proteins in the blood correlated with or drive disease progression.”

Dr. David Kent

The Kent lab has now relocated to the York Biomedical Research Institute in the Department of Biology at The University of York where researchers continues to pursue the goal of understanding the disease evolution of blood cancers. Jacob is now a consultant in Leeds and Nina has undertaken a new position as Senior Researcher at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen.

How Rosetrees Trust have supported Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld

The Kent Lab received funding for this research grant from 2016 to 2019, and it was Nina and Jacob who drove this project. The funds from the Rosetrees Trust allowed the team to purchase the necessary laboratory reagents to monitor changes in protein biomarkers at diagnosis and throughout the disease.

What the outcomes are of Rosetrees Trust-funded research from Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld

The first research paper to emerge from this project has now been published in the European Hematology Association’s new journal Hemasphere. Nina and Jacob’s results, from a comprehensive serum cytokine profile of more than 400 MPN patient samples, identified an essential thrombocythemia (ET)-specific inflammatory cytokine signature consisting of Eotaxin, GRO-α, and EGF. Their data implicates the immune cell microenvironment as a significant player in ET disease evolution, and also illustrates the utility of using cytokines as biomarkers for reaching beyond genomic classification for disease stratification and monitoring.

Written by: Dr. Rebecca Downing and Dr. David Kent