Understanding myeloproliferative neoplasm

Dr Belinda Guo is the recipient of the 2019-2021 Gunn Family National Career Development Fellowship for Women in Haematology.

For the past three years Belinda has researched novel blood biomarkers for predicting bone marrow failure in myeloproliferative neoplasms. During that time she has made great advances in identifying markers to monitor disease progression.

Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) is a form of blood cancer where your body makes too many blood cells. This can result in blood cells that don’t function properly or create thick blood.

For many patients MPN can be managed as a chronic disease however it can change to an aggressive cancer without warning in about 20 percent of people. Currently there is no way of knowing which patients will progress and which patients will remain with a manageable disease. Belinda is focussed on finding markers in the blood that will help determine who will progress and if so, when MPN will switch to an aggressive cancer.

This insight will help all MPN patients. They currently have no choice but to live day to day wondering if, and when their disease will progress. It will provide them with treatment strategies that will prolong survival and take the guess work out of their disease management.

Belinda is particularly interested in looking at changes that occur to platelets, a type of blood cell that is responsible for clotting. Platelets also help cancer cells survive and spread. Platelets are made by a cell in the bone marrow called a megakaryocyte. Several studies have shown that megakaryocytes play a role in driving disease progression in MPN, so changes in the platelet genetic make-up might provide insight to changes that are occurring in the bone marrow and therefore indicate disease progression.

The mentorship and funding security Belinda has received from the Gunn Family National Career Development Fellowship for Women in Haematology has boosted her confidence as a researcher. Belinda is not only attracting the attention of Australian researchers but has also developed collaborations with international researchers. Belinda is collaborating with Dr John Crispino, a leading researcher on megakaryocyte biology and abnormalities in MPN based at from St Jude Hospital, Tennessee. This connection resulted in another international collaboration. This time with Prof Ron Hoffman at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York.

Prof Hoffman is a world-renowned clinical researcher who has worked on MPN translational and clinical research for more than 30 years. Both collaborations will further benefit Australian MPN patients.

Belinda researches blood cancer because she feels it is an area that has been overlooked and has great potential for new discoveries to be made with improvements in technology. She is optimistic that it will be the next area of knowledge growth. We believe Belinda will play a major part in this knowledge growth.

The Gunn Family National Career Development Fellowship for Women in Haematology is jointly funded by the Snowdome Foundation, Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision and the Gunn Family. Applications are now open for the 2022 Fellowship