Scientists from UC San Francisco and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have teamed up to tackle acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a blood cancer that typically affects children from two to five years old.
Senior co-authors Markus Müschen, MD, PhD, professor of laboratory medicine at UCSF, and OHSU’s Bill Chang, MD, PhD, recently conducted a study that concluded in the definition of two separate subtypes of ALL, and a possible course of treatment.
One of the subtypes of ALL (belonging to roughly 13% of ALL patients) allows the disease to be treated using targeted drug therapies as opposed to radiation therapy, which can have deleterious side effects. Furthermore, the team concluded that about 13% of childhood ALL cases can be treated with existing drug therapies, and have developed an accurate and easy lab test to determine if a patient falls into this group.
“We hope patients in this newly identified subset can be treated with these targeted drugs, which have worked very well in patients with lymphoma and which are powerfully effective in the mouse experiments we have conducted on ALL,” said Müschen, “These drugs have essentially no side-effects and relatively few effects on quality of life.”
The study builds on previous work from 2013, which showed that various forms of drugs such as ibrutinib (trade name Imbruvica) or idelalisib (trade name Zydelig), were successful in targeting b-cell antigens associated with the disease. In this collaborative study, the team used certain b-cells as biomarkers and were able to identify and target ALL cells - first using mouse models and then in human trials.
According to a university press release, virtually all of the bone marrow slices from 112 patients (13.5 percent) showed the presence of the biomarker, making the process an accurate indicator of being candidates for targeted drug therapy.
“Our idea is that by adding these new drugs we can reduce the amount of conventional chemotherapy or even replace it. In our experiments with mice, both combination therapy with low-dose chemotherapy and single-agent targeted therapy each worked very well. The new clinical trial using the BCL-6 biomarker should begin to bring us the answers.”
Bone marrow cells under microscope
In addition to this important work in pediatric cancer, both of these universities are keeping busy with life science research. As a leading health institutions UC San Francisco and OHSU are home to some of the most active researchers in the nation.
- There are 1,167 principal investigators at OHSU, working on 2,988 research projects.
- UCSF recently ranked 2nd in research funding from the National Institutes of Health with $363,648,042.
- Nike Chairman Phil Knight has pledged $500 million to OHSU for cancer research.
- UCSF’s 2013 Life Science R & D Expenditures amounted to $1,030,983,000.
Both UCSF and OHSU are conducting ongoing research in the areas of oncology, neurology, cardiovascular and infectious disease, as well as a host of other important studies in life science. Every year, millions of dollars in funding goes toward supplying these researchers with the latest biotech and lab products. The best place to market these products directly to researchers at UCSF and OHSU is at Biotechnology Calendar, Inc.’s unique and popular biotech events:
-June 4, 2015, 10:00 a.m. – 2: 30 p.m.
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