Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a deadly blood cancer. Three of four patients with AML die within five years. Those who survive suffer harsh side effects from treatment. This problem has not changed in 30 years. We need to create new treatments that can cure AML before the disease becomes too hard to control. To do this, we need to learn what causes AML cells to grow in the body.
We now know that cancers grow not only because of changes in the cancer cells themselves, but also because of signals released by nearby healthy cells. Our lab found that an inflammation-causing protein called IL-1B plays a key role in AML by: 1) encouraging growth of AML cells, 2) stopping growth of normal cells around a tumor, and 3) preventing the body’s immune system from killing AML cells when cancer cells are growing. We will explore how to stop AML’s growth by blocking the communication between AML cells and this IL-1B signal. Blocking this signal could also allow the body’s natural defenses to recognize and kill AML cells. Our goal is to find new drugs to improve treatment and quality of life for AML patients.