PhD Candidate Profile: Shruthi Subramanian

shruthi Subramanian TCRN

What is your research about?

Acute Myeloid leukemia (AML) is a low prognosis cancer arising in the bone marrow, with varying risk depending on the mutations present. Conventional treatment strategies like radiation or chemotherapy aimed at removing leukemia cells also affect the normal haematopoietic stem cells leading to unwanted side effects for patients. Thus, the goal of my research is to develop less toxic therapies by targeting features of leukemic cells which are not recapitulated in normal blood stem cells and thus improve prognosis. In my project I aim to identify and manipulate AML-specific gene regulatory elements and exploit these as novel therapeutic targets in AML. To achieve this a thorough knowledge of normal haematopoiesis (the process of blood development from stem cells to all mature blood types) and its regulation is necessary. My research will lead to improved understanding of the biology of leukemia and identification of vulnerabilities in malignant cells that we can specifically target for better outcomes and wellbeing.

What is translational application of your research?

Despite improvements in supportive care, conventional chemotherapy, and bone marrow transplantation (except for acute pro-myelocytic leukaemia), more than half the patients diagnosed with AML succumb to complications associated with the disease or its treatment. With sequencing of AML genomes, we have a rudimentary understanding of recurrent mutations and the order of their acquisition. The challenge is to use this knowledge together with a broader understanding of how leukemic cells self-renew to identify ways of selectively targeting leukemic cells. As mentioned this will aid in the development of treatment strategies with increased specificity to malignant cells. My proposal aims to do this using an integrated wet-lab and dry-lab approach. A better targeting efficiency may decrease the depletion of the HSC pool found in most conventional therapies, and even translate to a better prognosis and overall/event-free survival.

How would the TCRN PhD top-up Scholarship help you succeed?

As I commence my doctoral studies in UNSW, being part of the TCRN community gives me the unique opportunity to engage with basic and translational scientists, clinicians and consumers. I look forward to, with the help of TCRN , in engaging with and obtaining input regarding my research from this diverse community. I believe this will be most important in shaping my research and career in a more productive and rewarding manner.