Relevant Research

Ohio State Research Played Significant Role in FDA Approval of New CLL Drug

John ByrdIn February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded  the approved use of the drug ibrutinib (Imbruvica®) to chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Much of the clinical and basic-science research that led to the approval was performed at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Much of the Ohio State work was led by John C. Byrd, MD, director, Division of Hematology, and professor of Medicine, of Medicinal Chemistry and of Veterinary Biosciences at the Ohio State. Byrd also directs the OSUCCC – James CLL Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory and co-leads the Leukemia Research Program at the OSUCCC – James.

Other key team members include Amy J. Johnson, PhD, Jason Dubovsky, PhD, Jeffrey Jones, MD, MPH, Joseph Flynn, DO, MPH, Jennifer Woyach, MD, Kami Maddocks, MD, and Kristie Blum, MD.

For more on Ohio State ibrutinib research, go to

Study Reveals How Cancer Cells Thrive in Oxygen-Starved Tumors

Nicholas DenkoHow cancer cells thrive under conditions of low oxygen, or hypoxia, within tumors is poorly understood, but researchers at the OSUCCC – James have identified a mechanism that enables cancer cells to proliferate even in low oxygen.

The findings might offer a new strategy for inhibiting tumor growth by reversing this hypoxia-triggered pathway.

The study found that cancer cells can alter how they use the amino acid glutamine.

Normally, cells use glutamine mainly to produce energy, diverting a small amount to make fatty acids and lipids. But in a growing tumor, low oxygen activates the gene HIF1, which shifts glutamine use heavily toward producing lipids needed for cell proliferation.

“We have blocked the growth of model tumors by redirecting hypoxic glutamine metabolism to make it follow the normal-oxygen pathway,” says principal investigator Nicholas Denko, PhD, MD, associate professor of Radiation Oncology and member of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program.

“Such a therapeutic strategy should have few unwanted side effects because normal, oxygenated tissue is already using glutamine in the normal manner,” Denko says.

Published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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