Grants - V Scholar Grants - Ohio - 2021

Andrew Volk, PhD

Funded by the Constellation Gold Network Distributors in honor of the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund

Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the blood that affects hundreds of children each year in the USA. While the survival rate has improved, there is still a 30-35% chance of relapse within five years of diagnosis. We need better therapeutic options to treat this disease. Leukemia, in most cases, is caused by a breakdown in the blood cells’ ability to regulate their genes. This leads to uncontrolled growth of partially developed blood cells that can overrun the host. While there are some drugs available to treat this disease, most patients eventually will see their leukemia return. Our research goal is to understand the mechanisms that break down when a healthy cell becomes a leukemic cell. We want to develop better therapeutics to treat leukemia. We have found that excessive levels of the chromatin assembly gene CHAF1B is needed for leukemic cells to stay cancerous. Turning down CHAF1B is enough to turn the leukemia tumor into normal cells. In fact, we think that CHAF1B is responsible for driving therapy resistance in AML by repressing expression of differentiation genes. Our work over the next two years will enhance our understanding of how this process breaks down in leukemia, and hopefully lead to better treatment options for patients.