Revolutionizing Multiple Myeloma Treatment
BC Cancer Clinician Scientist Dr. Florian Kuchenbauer and his team are developing disease models to study the effects of various drugs, honing their attention on high-risk multiple myeloma, which often eludes treatment.
Although multiple myeloma survival has doubled since 1975, only 51.2% of patients survive, and outcomes for high-risk patients are very poor, with most succumbing to their disease within six months (in comparison to the 7-10 year average survival). In order to move the needle on survival, Drs. Kuchenbauer and Rouhi plan to:
1. Sequence Biobank Samples to better understand the disease and how to treat it. They are interested in how patients become resistant to treatment and if drugs can be combined to prevent relapse.
2. Test Drugs and combine drugs in new ways to counteract resistance, in partnership with a drug testing facility at Simon Fraser University.
3. Launch Clinical Trials with a coordinated, efficient approach to enrollment that will give more choices to patients.
Understanding the Biology of Blood Cancers
BC Cancer Senior Scientist Dr. Andy Weng’s research focuses on T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He is currently leading two innovative projects to provide new treatment solutions for patients in B.C.:
1. Re-Wiring Adult Leukemia Cells: Pediatric leukemia patients have significantly better outcomes that their adult counterparts. Dr. Weng and team have successfully manipulated adult leukemic stem cells to more closely resemble the younger disease, which is easier to cure. They accomplished this by re-activating fetal cells that have been masked by proteins.
2. Expanding Knowledge through Synthetic Modelling which allows Dr. Weng to conduct in-depth studies of leukemia that are relevant to many patients. Synthetic models provide a strong advantage for cancer research: unlike tumour cells, which acquire many mutations over time, synthetic models enable research to start with a clean slate to study cancer in its “purest” form.
Improving Outcomes for Acute Myeloid Leukemia
BC Cancer Distinguished Scientist Dr. Aly Karsan’s work is focused on acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a pre-leukemia condition.
Relapse following stem cell transplantation is the most frequent cause of death in AML patients. Dr. Karsan and his colleagues are currently studying patients who are resistant to therapy or who relapse. Here are three current priority projects:
1. Understanding Transplant Failure: By creating genomic profiles of patients at the time of diagnosis, post-transplant and at relapse, Dr. Karsan hopes to uncover the genomic factors that cause relapse in order to target them with customized therapies.
2. Assessing Responsiveness in MDS: Dr. Karsan has launched a project to determine response in MDS patients at intermediate risk of developing AML based on “methylation patterns” in the DNA by investigating 60 genes.
3. Model Testing: By testing leukemia in models based on human disease, new targets can be identified that will spare healthy stem cells from the harmful effects of treatment.
Findings from these projects may also advance knowledge of pediatric AML and reveal the best candidates for transplant and immunotherapy