WVU wins $1.47 million grant to study stem cell role in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The National Cancer Institute has awarded Laura Gibson, Ph.D., of the West Virginia University Department of Pediatrics a five-year, $1.47 million grant to study stem cells to learn better ways to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Almost a quarter of all children with cancer suffer from ALL.

“The project is designed to study the survival and growth of leukemia stem cells in the bone marrow to identify strategies to render them more responsive to treatment,” said Gibson, who is a professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Pediatrics. “We hope that if we can learn more about how some individual cancer cells are able to survive after chemotherapy, we can then develop treatment strategies that are more effective while having
fewer side effects on children with cancer.”

Leukemic cells that are not successfully killed by treatment often survive in the bone marrow and later begin to grow and contribute to relapse of disease after treatment has stopped.  Children with relapsed leukemia are challenging to treat and have a lower survival rate than those with first-time diagnoses, so generating an optimal response during the initial phase of treatment is critical. 

In addition to the recently awarded grant focused on leukemia, the National Institutes of Health has funded Gibson's lab for more than 10 years in its studies of mechanisms by which aggressive chemotherapy alters the bone marrow microenvironment. Identifying ways to help the patient’s immune system efficiently rebuild following bone marrow transplantation is the primary goal of these studies.

The team works in close collaboration with clinical faculty members who work with patients in WVU Children’s Hospital and WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.

For information on Children’s Hospital see www.wvukids.com.

For information on the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/.


For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 1-26-09

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