Funded by the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund and the V Foundation Wine Celebration in honor of Bob McClenahan
Leukemia is a blood cancer that can be fully treated with anti-cancer drugs in most people. However, many people with leukemia do not respond to these drugs and are at risk of dying. It is not known why some leukemias respond to treatment while others do not. We believe that the type of normal blood cell that becomes leukemic impacts the behavior of individual leukemias. We believe that if a normal blood cell possessing the ability to form many other types of blood cells (in other words, it is a blood ‘stem cell’) turns into leukemia, this leukemia will be hard to treat. On the other hand, if the normal blood cell does not possess such properties – it is a more mature blood cell – this leads to treatable leukemia. In this proposal, we will apply our experience in engineering different types of blood cells (stem cells and more mature blood cells) to become leukemic. We will ask how the type of healthy blood cell impacts the behavior of the resulting leukemia. We will use genetics to understand how the properties of normal blood stem cells are transferred to leukemia cells to impact aggressiveness. We expect that successful completion of this study will improve our understanding as to why some forms of leukemia are treatable and why some are not treatable. We hope that these conclusions can lead to better understanding of individual patient leukemias and improved treatments.