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Massey physician-researcher awarded $600,000 to develop more effective therapies for leukemia

Aug 31, 2017

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VCU Massey Cancer Center physician-researcher Steven Grant, M.D., was awarded $600,000 from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to develop more effective therapies for patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

AML represents a group of related cancers that begin in the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced, and rapidly disseminate into the blood stream. AML is most often diagnosed in adults, and the American Cancer Society estimates that over 21,000 new diagnoses of the disease will occur in the United States in 2017.

Refractory AML refers to a situation where residual leukemia cells remain in the bone marrow and peripheral blood following intensive treatment, and relapsed leukemia is a leukemia that has returned after going into remission. Currently, patients with relapsed/refractory AML lack effective treatment options. 

Grant, a Massey hematologist-oncologist, said the two-year-funding will support a phase 1 clinical trial and correlative laboratory studies testing a novel combination therapy on AML patients following his previous research in the laboratory setting using the same treatment that was proven to significantly improve survival in animal models of AML.

The therapy being studied consists of a combination of the Nedd8-activating enzyme inhibitor (which triggers DNA damage and death in AML cells) and a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor (a chemical compound that regulates gene expression).

“Hopefully, the work supported by this award will serve as a foundation for establishing a novel targeted approach to leukemia treatment and provide us with valuable information that will allow us to improve clinical outcomes in the future,” said Grant, the associate director for translational research, co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics research program and Shirley Carter and Sture Gordon Olsson Chair in Cancer Research at Massey. He is also a professor of hematology-oncology at the VCU School of Medicine.

The clinical trial will be led by Danielle Shafer, D.O., M.S., a hematologist-oncologist, member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program and medical director of the Clinical Trials Office at Massey.

The LLS is a non-profit organization dedicated to funding research, finding cures and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

Written by: Blake Belden

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