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The 2017 Rowley Prize is awarded to Professor Tessa HolyoakeGlasgow TessaHolyoake

Tessa Holyoake, Professor of Experimental Haematology at the Glasgow Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre has been awarded the 2017 iCMLf Rowley Prize.

The Rowley Prize is awarded each year by the International CML Foundation to celebrate people who have made outstanding lifetime contributions to the understanding of the biology of CML. Professor Holyoake receives the prize in recognition of her ground breaking work understanding and targeting CML stem cells.

Tessa Holyoake’s world-leading research is on the cancer stem cell, working from the model of chronic myeloid leukaemia. Together with her interdisciplinary research group in Glasgow she has developed laboratory methods to purify the cells of interest from leukaemia patients and from normal donors, allowing side-by-side comparisons of leukemic versus normal stem cells. These comparisons include global analyses of gene expression and protein expression.

In 2002 she was the first to demonstrate that CML stem cells are completely insensitive to killing by first generation kinase inhibitor, imatinib. These findings published in Blood highlighted that kinase inhibitors alone would be unlikely to cure CML. Her work since then has focused on the identification of key stem cell survival pathways that may be manipulated in a selective manner. Recently she began to explore high throughput drug screening against the purified cancer stem cells hoping to find drugs that rapidly kill the cancer stem cells but leave normal stem cells intact.

A recent study, led by Professor Holyoake analysed both CML and normal blood stem cells and found two proteins that were key to the survival of CML stem cells. The group then developed a drug combination to simultaneously target these critical proteins and kill the CML stem cells, while largely sparing normal cells. This research, published in Nature, although at an early stage, is a fantastic example of precision medicine in action.

Tessa Holyoake serves as Professor of Experimental Haematology and Director of the Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre, Section of Experimental Haematology at the University of Glasgow (UK). She has earned her medical degrees and haematology specialist training at the University of Glasgow, the Inverclyde Hospital in Greenock and the Western Infirmary in Glasgow. She completed her PhD at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow.

Learn more about Tessa Holyoake here