Grants - V Scholar Grants - Massachusetts - 2016

Birgit Knoechel, M.D., Ph.D.

Funded by the 2015 V Foundation Wine Celebration

Despite great progress in treating cancer in children, we are still not able to cure all patients, especially those who relapse or do not respond to standard therapy. In T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), children and adults have poor outcomes because of resistance to existing therapies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify new treatment strategies. The term “epigenetics” refers to the environment in the nucleus that is surrounding the DNA in cells and can determine which genes are turned “on” or “off.” The recent discovery that epigenetic changes can contribute to cancer development is key because they may be reversible and targeted with novel anti-cancer drug therapies. Although many tumors have epigenetic alterations, their relevance is not well understood. My research aims to understand epigenetic changes and their consequences in cancer. The research funded by the V Foundation will investigate what causes the epigenetic changes in drug resistant T-ALL. This research holds great promise for revealing new information about the biology of T-ALL and has great potential to bring effective new therapies to patients with this type of blood cancer.