Dr Konstantinos Tzelepis receives ASH–BSH Abstract Achievement Award for leukaemia target research
Dr Konstantinos Tzelepis, Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow and Visiting Scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, has been awarded the ASH–BSH Abstract Achievement Award for his work on the leukaemia target, METTL3. This work was carried out in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, and with STORM Therapeutics, the biotechnology company focused on the discovery of small molecule therapies modulating RNA epigenetics.
Dr Tzelepis received the award for his abstract entitled ‘Pharmacological Inhibition of the RNA m6a Writer METTL3 As a Novel Therapeutics Strategy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia’ at the 61st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) held on 7th-10th December 2019 in Orlando, Florida, where he also gave his talk. The abstract and talk revealed the work on targeting RNA modifying enzymes for cancer treatment and described the recent progress made with the METTL3 inhibitor.
The annual Abstract Achievement Award, from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in partnership with the British Society for Haematology (BSH), is granted to up to three trainees who are the first or senior author and presenter of the most meritorious country-specific project.
“I am delighted to receive this prestigious Award for our work on METTL3. Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is an aggressive blood cancer that affects people of all ages, often requiring months of intensive chemotherapy with fewer than one in three people surviving the cancer. Our work provides the first proof of concept for the field of epitranscriptomics as we show that RNA modifying enzymes represent a new target class for anti-cancer therapeutics. It also paves the way for the epitranscriptomic profiling of several normal and disease contexts.”
Dr Konstantinos Tzelepis, project leader and visiting Scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute
This builds on previous research at the Sanger Institute that found that inhibiting the methyl transferase activity of the METTL3 gene destroys AML cells without harming non-cancerous blood cells, and which identified RNA modifications as a new mechanism of gene regulation for AML cells.
STORM Therapeutics has now identified small molecule inhibitors of METTL3 that are orally bioavailable and show pronounced anti-tumour efficacy in physiologically relevant, proof of concept animal models of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). The talk demonstrated that small molecule inhibition of METTL3 produces the same phenotype and effects previously described using genetic models and validates METTL3 as a druggable target for cancer.
“STORM is progressing fast in its preclinical work with our multiple programmes to showcase the capabilities of our novel platform. STORM is a pioneer in RNA epigenetics and we are very pleased to hear that our collaborator is being recognized for the partnership research of METTL3. As the first company in the world to demonstrate in vivo activity of an RNA methyltransferase inhibitor, we are excited to be leading the field as we look to develop these highly innovative new treatment options for cancer patients.”
Keith Blundy, CEO of STORM Therapeutics
"Treatments for AML have changed little for decades and outcomes remain poor for the majority of patients. Drugs that inhibit METTL3 have the potential to improve the survival and quality of life of patients and this important transatlantic award to Dr Tzelepis endorses this view.”
Professor George Vassiliou, key collaborator from the Sanger and Cambridge Stem Cell Institutes and Consultant Haematologist at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust