Leukemia affects one to two per cent of the population in the industrialized world. The disease occurs when the genes that control the normal process of blood cell formation function abnormally, and bone marrow produces malignant white blood cells as a result. These cancerous cells accumulate, interfere with the body’s production of healthy blood cells, and make the body unable to protect itself against infections. A family of genes called Hox genes are present in elevated levels in patients with some forms of leukemia, and are known to play a crucial role in the disease. Dr. Koichi Hirose is investigating the molecular function of these genes to explain how they transform normal blood cell development into leukemia. His research could help in the development of new therapies for treating Hox-related leukemia.