Belinda Guo

  • MPNRF | April 23, 2024
    Belinda Guo, PhD, University of Western Australia

    One of the impacts MPN research Foundation (MPNRF) has on the global MPN community is the support of young investigators who often bring new ideas and approaches to the study of MPNs. That was true of Dr. Belinda Guo when she received her first funding from us in 2019, for a project still underway.

    Her work now focuses on the progression of MPNs from a chronic condition to the more aggressive state of myelofibrosis. Specifically, the current MPNRF-funded project identifies easily detectable changes in the blood’s platelets that could signal a transformative change to a fibrotic state.

    “It could be used to monitor patients and tell us if and when the disease may be progressing,” she explains.  

    “Our work ultimately aims to identify a way through which patients can be monitored more regularly, and with ease, by collecting and examining blood, and reducing the need for invasive bone marrow assessment. It could also provide doctors with the information they need to make informed decisions about how best to treat and manage the wellbeing of their patients,” Dr. Guo says. The hope is that this type of regular monitoring would provide timely, accurate information for patients and their doctors to assess progression risk, and then earlier treatment to manage it. 

     “This could also provide patients with some reassurance and give them back some control over their life.” adds, Dr. Guo

    Her passion for collaboration among scientists and clinicians echoes our own mission. She describes the lab she joined as “very unique,” made up of a mix of research scientists, clinician scientists, clinicians, and pathologists. “A major interest for the lab was MPN, and the head of our lab, Professor Wendy Erber, was a part of one of the teams that discovered the JAK2V617F mutation.” Dr. Erber’s dedication to translational research and MPNs became Dr. Guo’s inspiration. 

    “The ability for scientists and clinicians to interact together at all stages of the project was great for dynamics,” she says, “and meant that it was easy to see how the work could be helpful for patients and clinicians one day. It also meant that we were able to tailor and design our studies to address something that is a critical problem.” 

    MPNRF’s support took the project to the next step

    Our support allowed the team to perform an important step: validation of their discovery. “We have shown that we can detect genetic changes in the blood that are specific to patients that have progressed to myelofibrosis,” she reports.  

      “The funding from MPNRF allowed us to confirm this in samples from a different group of patients, collected under different conditions and stored in a biobank. This gives us confidence in our data and shows that the workflow is stable and suitable for adoption by different laboratories. It also gave us an opportunity to investigate whether these changes can be detected before the MPN progresses from chronic (ET/PV) to myelofibrosis by using mouse models of MPN. We found that these genetic changes could be detected in the blood before fibrosis (or scarring) and damage in the bone marrow.  

    “This is very exciting and suggests this approach may have predictive potential,” she adds. “A lot of data was generated during this project, and we are still busy performing ongoing analysis.”

    Another key part of this project, according to Dr. Guo, is the collaboration that has been developed between her Western Australia University lab, John Crispino, PhD (St Jude), and Ronald Hoffman, MD (Mount Sinai), “which has made all of this research possible.”