14/06/2016 10:33 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST

Leukaemia Insight For Condition Affecting Babies

Melbourne researchers have shown an important part of how the disease works.

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A new discovery could lead to better treatment for a type of leukaemia.

An Australian insight into a type of leukaemia mostly affecting babies could fast-track new treatments.

Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre researchers in Melbourne looked into a sub-type of the disease called 'MLL Translocated leukaemia', which has a particularly poor survival rate of between 50-60 percent in infants and 20 percent of adults.

The team analysed types of protein known to be related to the disease and found two that depended on each other to progress the disease.

Professor Mark Dawson said drugs targeting these two proteins were now in clinical trials.

"The good news is we don't have to develop new drugs in light of this research because they are already here and in clinical trials," Dawson said.

He said any new resulting treatments would be the first improvement in decades.

"Every other disease that I've treated in my time as a haematologist has had one, if not very many new drugs come along to improve treatment but but this has not been seen generally for leukaemia and for [this sub-type] in particular, it is none -- zero," Dawson said.

"This is a disease where patients affected are often young and fit when first diagnosed but do not respond to conventional therapy."