The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has awarded six grants totaling $5.8 million to Dana-Farber investigators who are working to better understand and find cures for bloodborne cancers. LLS, which has invested nearly $1.6 billion in groundbreaking research worldwide since 1949, is a long-standing foundation partner of Dana-Farber.
LLS granted its prestigious five-year Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) award to Robert Soiffer, MD, who is leading a team of researchers at Dana-Farber and in Europe. They are exploring the mechanisms by which acute myeloid leukemia evades the immune system and causes the cancer to recur in patients who have undergone allogeneic stem cell transplants. Relapse occurs in as many as 40% of these patients, and their mortality rate is high.
“Right now, there are no proven strategies to reliably prevent or treat relapse,” said Soiffer, who is chief of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies and the Worthington and Margaret Collette Professor of Medicine in the Field of Hematologic Oncology. “Because of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, our team of experienced transplant collaborators can undertake innovative projects that have the potential to yield new treatments to help these patients.”
Chemical biologist Jun Qi, PhD, received the Blood Cancers Discovery Award for his work with Kenneth Anderson, MD, to investigate how an epigenetic protein, KDM5, can understand and overcome drug resistance to multiple myeloma immunotherapy. “We anticipate that our studies will result in new treatment options that can lead to significant improvements in patient outcomes,” Qi said.
Four investigators received Career Development Awards: Christopher Booth, PhD, Special Fellow; Coleman Lindsley, MD, PhD, Scholar; Qingyu Luo, MD, PhD, Fellow; and Eugenio Morelli, MD, Special Fellow.
Booth’s work focuses on a rare leukemia with a very poor prognosis called blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN). Little is known about the condition, which is typically found in men between 60 and 70 years of age, and there is no established treatment. Booth is investigating how alterations in the MYB protein cause BPDCN, hoping to produce new insights into how the disease develops that might spark new treatments.
Lindsley is working to improve clinical outcomes in patients with myeloid malignancies through an enhanced understanding of the diseases’ underlying mechanisms. He and his team will investigate how characteristics of the patient, the disease, and the stem cell donor influence outcomes for patients who undergo allogeneic transplants. They will also develop technologies to permit early detection of gene mutations that cause leukemias and their progression.
Luo is exploring why BPDCN is more severe than other leukemias and possible new treatments for it. His focus is on abnormal cell-signaling pathways that permit cancer cells to thrive and whether blocking these pathways in combination with existing cancer drugs can achieve better outcomes for patients.
Morelli’s focus is on defining the biologic and therapeutic significance of long non-protein coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in multiple myeloma. Despite the many therapies available, many multiple myeloma patients relapse and succumb to the disease. Morelli believes that lncRNAs may constitute the next generation of target molecules for treatment.
“Science builds on itself, helping us to learn more about what causes bloodborne cancers to help us find better ways to treat them,” said Lee Greenberger, PhD, LLS’s chief scientific officer. “Our decades-long partnership with Dana-Farber has already yielded great advances, and we expect these current projects to not only move us closer to a cure but improve quality of life as well.
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