Researchers receive innovative grants to understand the biological underpinnings of blood cancers

Seeking to ignite the next major breakthroughs to treat blood cancers, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), The Mark Foundation, and The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group today announced more than $6.75 million awarded to nine of the most exceptional scientists in the field.

The innovative Blood Cancer Discoveries Grant Program is designed to encourage researchers with deep experience in the blood cancers to conduct critical basic research in hopes of unleashing the next wave of novel approaches to treating leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes; together, these cancers are the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.

Over our 70-year history, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has been at the forefront of revolutionary cancer treatments from the early days of chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation to the leading edge discoveries of immunotherapy and precision medicine; our investment in research is nearly $1.3 billion over that time,"

With this new initiative, LLS maintains its role as a driver of innovation, supporting early stage research to propel discoveries that might lead to the next generation of treatments and cures, and help accelerate promising therapies to patients."

Lee Greenberger, Chief Scientific Officer. Lee Greenberger, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The grants are awarded to researchers seeking to understand the biological underpinnings of various blood cancers, what causes them to develop and grow, or become resistant to treatments. Each project will be supported by an award of $750,000 over a three-year period.

"In science, collaboration can accelerate the pace of achievement," said Michele Cleary, Ph.D., CEO of The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. "Similarly, this three-way partnership among foundations will accelerate our understanding of cancer biology by empowering some of the brightest scientists to simultaneously probe unique but challenging areas of unmet need. We look forward to the discoveries that will result from these efforts."

Added Kathryn Richmond, Ph.D., MBA, director of the Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute, "Our organization is committed to pushing the boundaries of bioscience and accelerating discoveries to make a difference for humankind, and we believe these grants will be a catalyst that will spark innovative new directions in blood cancer research."

"We are grateful that the Frontiers Group and Mark Foundation have aligned with us to fund some of the greatest minds in cancer discovery," said LLS's Greenberger. "Collaborating with foundations who share a common goal of fueling leading-edge research to advance cures and better, safer treatments for cancer patients is critical to advancing our mission."

The Blood Cancer Discoveries Grant Program recipients are:

Robert Bradley, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Dr. Bradley is investigating the mutations in the SF3B1 protein and their connection with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and leukemias, and exploring this protein as a therapeutic target.

Catriona Jamieson, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California San Diego
Dr. Jamieson is examining the role of two enzymes (APOBEC3 and ADAR1) known to mutate DNA and RNA and their role in AML and disease relapse, particularly in elderly patients.

Ronald (Ron) Levy, M.D.
Stanford University School of Medicine
Dr. Levy is investigating a pre-clinical "off-the-shelf" CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell immunotherapy approach where the CAR cells are generated directly in the patient's body.

Ravindra (Ravi) Majeti, M.D., Ph.D.
Stanford University School of Medicine
Dr. Majeti is generating cell-based models to test the progression of preleukemic cells into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). His lab will use these models to test potential therapies and the role of the microenvironment in disease progression.

Markus Müschen M.D., Ph.D.
City of Hope
Dr. Müschen is exploring a protein called LGR5 found in multiple B-cell malignancies such as B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, mantle cell lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, as a potential diagnostic marker and therapeutic target. He is planning to test small molecule inhibitors and different immunotherapies in preclinical models.

Susan Schwab, Ph.D.
New York University
Dr. Schwab is examining the mechanism of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cells that allow them to enter and accumulate in the central nervous system when the disease spreads to the brain.

Margaret Shipp, M.D.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/ Harvard Medical School
Dr. Shipp and her colleague, Scott J. Rodig, MD, Ph.D., are mapping the immune microenvironment in classical Hodgkin lymphoma.

Robert Signer, Ph.D.
University of California San Diego
Dr. Signer is investigating how the biological process of building defective proteins (inaccurate protein synthesis) plays a role in the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in the hopes of developing targeted therapies to treat this condition.

Daniel T. Starczynowski, Ph.D
Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation
Dr. Starczynowski is investigating the role and potential therapeutic benefit of targeting of a protein called UBE2N in acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

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