The leukemia stem cell-the root cause of all acute leukemias- represents a small population of cells in patients that are difficult to eliminate with standard treatments available today. Though current chemotherapy can produce temporary remission in leukemia survivors, they remain at risk of experiencing a recurrence and dying from the disease. The one exception is the remarkable cure of a rare form of leukemia called acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), which came about from combining differentiation therapy with chemotherapy, and was pioneered by the collaboration between scientists at the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) and the Shanghai Institute of Hematology (SIH) in China in 1982.
Now, a three-year grant of $375,000 from the Emerald Foundation, Inc. will further expand the collaboration between researchers from the SWCRF and researchers at the SIH. The SWCRF/Emerald Foundation, Inc. Global Collaborative Grant will fund critical research to identify new and more powerful drugs that can restore normal differentiation and cell growth to leukemia stem cells.
"The Emerald Foundation, Inc. seized the opportunity to partner with the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation in order to develop a cure for cancer. We truly believe in SWCRF's collaborative Institute Without Walls, which is made up of internationally-recognized scientists," said Gloria Thakuria, the scientific program officer at the Emerald Foundation, Inc. "It is through the collaboration between foundations, as well as the collaborations between scientists around the world that we will discover a cure for this deadly disease."
Gwen Darien, the executive director of the Foundation, agreed. "Collaboration is a hallmark of the Waxman Foundation's 35-year history, and has helped lead the SWCRF to make significant breakthroughs in cancer research," said Darien. "We are truly excited about partnering with the Emerald Foundation, Inc. in this collaborative grant to improve the lives of patients and families worldwide."
The grant will fund the following research projects:
- The development and testing of a compound extracted from medicinal herbs known as Oridonin and its derivatives to attack the leukemia stem cell in clinical trials.
- The utilization of mass sequencing analyses to better understand the leukemia stem cell.
- Identification of leukemia stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia for further research in disease progression and treatment response.
The Foundation's mission has long focused on supporting cancer research that offers patients minimally toxic treatments, said Samuel Waxman, M.D., the scientific director of the SWCRF. "Eradicating the leukemia stem cell is the next logical step to fulfilling the Foundation's mission and goal of improving the quality of life and care for cancer patients," he said.