Professor Anindita Roy is the awarded Wellcome Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship
Andi Roy trained in Paediatrics before focusing her clinical and academic career in Paediatric Haematology and specifically on infant/childhood leukaemia.
Andi’s main research interest is understanding the developmental origins and biology of childhood leukaemia, especially the treatment resistant subtypes. She has worked in the field of developmental haematopoiesis and leukaemogenesis for several years and her previous academic placements include: LLR Clinical Training Fellowship (PhD 2007-2011, Imperial College London); NIHR Academic Clinical Lectureship in Paediatric Haematology (2011-2015, Imperial College London) and Bloodwise Clinician Scientist Fellowship in Paediatric Haematology (2015-2019, University of Oxford).
Andi was awarded the title of Associate Professor by the University of Oxford in 2018 and is currently based at the Department of Paediatrics and MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford. She holds an honorary Clinical Lecturer post at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and is also a member of Prof Irene Roberts’ team investigating how trisomy 21 perturbs haematopoiesis before birth and its implications for Down syndrome associated leukaemia in children, in particular DS-ALL (Down Syndrome- acute lymphoblastic leukaemia).
While remarkable progress has been made in treatment of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) with nine out of ten children now cured of the disease in the UK, the outlook is much worse for certain subtypes. This is especially true for those leukaemias that arise in babies less than a year old (infant ALL), where only five out ten survive. Newer and effective treatment strategies are urgently required for these patients and for this, a better understanding of the pathogenesis and biology of infant ALL is crucial. Infant ALL invariably originates before birth and MLL gene rearrangement is often sufficient to cause rapid leukaemic transformation without additional genetic abnormalities. It is likely that the biology of ALL, including leukaemia initiation, maintenance and progression depends on the developmental stage and type of cell it originates in. Fetal specific characteristics of the target cell may make infant ALL particularly difficult to treat.
As a clinician scientist, the overarching aim of Andi’s project is to be able to deliver a clinically meaningful improvement in outcome for infants with ALL. This does not seem achievable using conventional chemotherapeutic or stem cell transplant approaches, as survival of patients with infant ALL has not improved in the last 20 years despite collaborative efforts and improvements in supportive care. Current treatment protocols for these rare leukaemias are undertaken as part of large international collaborative study groups; and involve intensive chemotherapeutic and stem cell transplantation strategies, with resultant acute and long-term treatment related morbidities that place a significant societal and economic burden. More importantly, these treatment strategies have so far failed to improve survival in these patients. Andi’s research will determine key drivers and vulnerabilities of leukaemic cells in infant ALL. These insights are likely to significantly advance identification of new diagnostics and pathways for targeted therapy. Similar approaches can then be used for other types.
Andi’s current Wellcome Trust funded research aims to identify and characterise the poorly understood target cell population responsible for in utero initiation of infant ALL. Andi’s group have recently defined novel B lymphoid developmental pathways in human fetal life and now want to examine why fetal specific progenitors are particularly susceptible to leukaemic transformation by MLL rearrangement and how it progresses, especially compared to postnatal progenitors found in paediatric and adult life. This will help identify developmental stage specific pathways that drive aggressive treatment resistant leukaemia in infants. Andi’s clinical work will focus on integrating these research findings into clinical practice through national and international trials for treatment of childhood leukaemia, including low and middle-income countries (LMIC).
Andi is currently working in close collaboration with Irene Roberts, Tom Milne, Adam Mead, Supat Thongjuea and Beth Psaila at The Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. Andi will also work with clinical collaborators: Phil Ancliff, Sarah Inglott, Jonathan Bond, Adele Fielding and Anthony Moorman in the UK; and Vaskar Saha in India.