researching inherited risks in developing blood cancers

Therapy-related leukemias, those that occur after a person receives chemotherapy or radiation to treat another cancer, are a devastating, often fatal, complication for individuals who have already fought and survived a first cancer. Risk factors for development of therapy-related leukemias remain largely unknown, thus preventing the identification of those at risk at the time of treatment for their first cancer and the potential to modify that treatment to prevent this complication. Preliminary data suggests that inherited abnormalities in genes that substantially increase a woman’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, such as the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, may also be a significant risk factor for the development of therapy-related leukemias. To investigate this, Dr. Churpek will determine the proportion of inherited mutations in breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility genes in a cohort of women who developed therapy-related leukemias after being treated for breast or ovarian cancer. She will also test this hypothesis directly by exposing mice with a Brca1 mutation in their blood cells to chemotherapy and/or radiation and  observing them for abnormalities of blood cell formation or the development of leukemias.