$6.25 Million Grant Will Fund Chronic Leukemia Research  

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Posted: 7/26/2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have received a five-year, $6.25 million grant from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to develop new therapies and improve current therapies for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common form of adult leukemia.

More than 9,700 Americans are diagnosed with CLL annually. The disease has no cure.

The society awarded a Specialized Center of Research grant to Dr. John C. Byrd, a hematologist/oncologist with the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute and D. Warren Brown Professor of Leukemia Research.

“CLL is a devastating disease, and Dr. Byrd’s grant should lead to exciting new therapies for this incurable cancer,” says Dr. Michael A. Caligiuri, director of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This grant is another example of the outstanding basic and clinical research being done here at Ohio State and of the cutting-edge therapies that are made available to the people of Ohio and the U.S.A. through the OSU cancer program.”

The grant will fund four research projects and three clinical trials and involve more than a dozen researchers. The projects aim to develop and improve experimental drugs that block specific molecules needed by CLL cells to survive and grow. The work will focus on cases of CLL with genetic changes that make the disease most resistant to therapy.

One project, led by Dr. Michael R. Grever, studies the drug flavopiridol, which initially seemed ineffective against CLL until the OSU researchers identified a new way of administering the drug that greatly increases its activity. The investigators want to understand how flavopiridol kills CLL cells, how resistance to the drug occurs, and whether indicators can be found that identify patients who have a natural resistance to the drug.

The second project, led by Michael A. Freitas, PhD, investigates how a class of proteins known as histones are altered in CLL and how two experimental drugs reverse those alterations. Histones help regulate gene activity; the loss of gene regulation is a fundamental cause of cancer. The project will study how the experimental drugs depsipeptide and HDAC-42 change the altered histones and why those changes also make CLL cells more susceptible to destruction by certain monoclonal antibodies.

The remaining projects, led by Byrd and by Ching-Shih Chen, PhD, focus on understanding several essential molecules in CLL cells, including enzymes known as kinases; on developing new drugs to block those molecules; and on redesigning existing experimental drugs to increase their potency.

Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute is one of the nation’s leading centers for research on the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The OSU CCC – James encompasses six interdisciplinary research programs and includes more than 200 investigators who generate over $100 million annually in external funding. It is a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and OSU’s James Cancer Hospital is consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best cancer hospitals.

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Darrell Ward
Medical Center Communications

Tags: Clinical/Translational Research; James Cancer Hospital; Leukemia

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) 460 W. 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210 Phone: 1-800-293-5066 | Email: jamesline@osumc.edu