Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, occurs when white blood cells begin behaving abnormally, and do not properly protect the body from infections and diseases. There are two main types of lymphoma, Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and although between 30 and 60 percent of patients with lymphoma can be cured through different treatment methods like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, there are still problems with lymphoma being resistant to some drugs used. The National Cancer Institute, part of the NIH, recently awarded the University of Arizona Tucson a 5-year, $1.59 million life science grant to study methods of combating drug resistance in lymphoma treatments.
University of Arizona Tucson researcher Jonathan H. Schatz, MD from the UA Cancer Center will use this $1.59 million grant to study the growth mechanisms of tumors that are driven by anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) and how they become resistant to treatment. (Image on right courtesy of Wikimedia)
ALK is a protein that is known for driving certain types of lymphomas. It has previously been studied in clinical trials relating to lung cancer, since it appears in about 5 percent of lung cancers. Through his research, Dr. Schatz found that when ALK inhibitors are introduced into lymphoma tumors, the ALK protein becomes over-expressed which creates a resistance to treatments. However, an overdose of cancer-creating oncogenes occurs when the ALK inhibitors are no longer present.
“Understanding this overdose effect is a major goal of the grant project. The results could teach us a lot about how to effectively treat these cases,” explained Dr. Schatz.
The main purpose of this study is to find ways to use this over-dose effect in treatments to fight lymphoma. However, the treatments need to be done intermittently to use the ALK-targeted inhibitors to exploit the oncogene overdose effect of ALK over-expression.
This research on lymphoma resistance and treatments is beneficial to other types of cancers as well because it helps researchers understand why certain cancers stop responding to treatments, which allows for the development of new treatment approaches.
Dr. Schatz said that “if we properly optimize our approach in lymphoma, this strategy could have positive implications for many cancers.”
The University of Arizon, Tucson receives large amounts of funding annually to finance other ground breaking research endeavors:
- The University of Arizona is part of a consortium sharing a $9 million contract from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discover new ways of preventing and fighting citrus greening disease.
- The University of Arizona has been awarded $8 million over four years to research how algae can be grown outdoors all year long.
- The Department of Defense is funding a $7.5 million sleep and memory study.
The University of Arizona Tucson is a top ranked institution for life science research. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. holds an annual BioResearch Product Faire™ event at UA Tuscon every year that provides researchers with the opportunity to meet with life science vendors to find new products which will help further their work. For more information about the University of Arizona funding and upcoming event, please visit the links below.