2011 Interdisciplinary Leukemia Project Report
The Cancer Research Foundation is pleased to present the 2011 Report from the Interdisciplinary Leukemia Project
In early 2009, the Cancer Research Foundation pledged $3,000,000 to partially fund a project focused on knitting a number of different scientific disciplines together to target a specific type of leukemia that develops after patients receive treatments to combat their primary cancer. This Interdisciplinary Leukemia Project was designed to demonstrate the concept of systems science which suggests that cancer is too complex a disease to be approached in only one way at a time. Our hope is that by causing a group of scientific teams to approach leukemia through a number of different disciplines while sharing data and findings with each other and acting on information produced by other teams, we will supercharge the scientific process, creating a project where the sum is much greater than its parts.
Each of the original six subprojects focuses on therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia (t-AML.) Subproject one is directed at comparing the genetic signatures of healthy and t-AML affected blood cells. Subproject two is focused on what we still don't know about how healthy blood cells develop and when and where a diseased cell first takes a wrong turn in development. Subproject three zeros in on the genetic profiles of current t-AML patients to screen for treatment sensitivity and effectiveness. Subproject four is working on transplanting t-AML cells into mice and testing targeted therapies on the disease as it develops. Subproject five sets up clinical trials for human patients, focusing first on treatments already in use and then on other therapies uncovered or suggested in the other subprojects. Finally, subproject six addresses how to move all the data created, shared and needed by all of these projects in an appropriate and efficient way, as well as creating information access to scientists who are not part of the project but whose work could benefit from the work being done in real time.
The Interdisciplinary Leukemia Project was kicked off roughly two years ago, with a proposed project length of five years. The Cancer Research Foundation is pleased to report that there is already progress being reported for most of the subprojects. Subproject one, dealing with the genetic signatures of t-AML, has made great strides in identifying genetic markers that may indicate predisposition to secondary leukemias. In addition, its investigators have also found a number of distinct genetic mutations that appear to be related to the development of t-AML which they hope will lead to identifying the cellular processes that are changing to create the disease.
Subproject two, focused on blood cell development, has identified a number of important factors in the development of both normal and leukemia blood cells and has started to develop and run specialized experiments to better understand the processes for which these factors are responsible. In addition, the team is also studying the physical architecture of the developing leukemic cells. The third subproject, which deals with predicting how individuals with t-AML will react to certain types of therapy, has had some success mapping out sensitivity to particular chemotherapy agents and the investigators are looking for other compounds that exhibit similar chemical signatures. They have also begun the development of a cell based model to identify physical attributes that are matched with genetic types and which also indicate positive and negative responsiveness to specific t-AML therapies.
Subproject four, focused on developing a live model in mice, has successfully grafted three separate strains of human leukemia cells into mouse models. The investigators will continue to stabilize these lines and start to test new chemicals to limit leukemia development. The fifth subproject, focused on human clinical trials, is up and running; its researchers have identified a combination of drugs that appears to exhibit substantial effect on t-AML while still being tolerable to the patient. Finally, subproject six, which supports the data of all of the other subprojects, has successfully developed an analytic approach to sort through the personal genetic signatures of the cellular samples being used to make individual predictions regarding a patient’s likeliness of developing t-AML as well as which treatments may be potentially effective.
We are extremely excited about the results summarized here and look forward to having more good news regarding the Interdisciplinary Leukemia Project to report to you in the future.
"I owe a great deal to the Cancer Research Foundation for giving me a head start. This financial help made the difference between my getting a fast and successful start, and my other wise struggling to obtain the necessary funds to get my research program started."Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D.
Professor, Departments of Medicine and Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology and Human Genetics University of Chicago
April 30, 2010