Partially funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund
Nick Valvano Translational Research Grant*
Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) originate from abnormal blood stem cells which have acquired multiple molecular aberrations over time and generate the bulk tumor cells that are diagnosed in patients in the clinic. Conventional therapies inhibit the bulk tumor cells; however, they do not eliminate the early blood stem cells that are the true root of the disease. Recent work has uncovered unexpected diversity of stem cells in patients with MDS, detected through a new methodology which we recently developed. Cancer/leukemia development is, at least in part, promoted by exposure to environmental toxins. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center created an unprecedented environmental exposure to aerosolized dust and gases that contained many carcinogens, and over the past few years we have built a large repository of samples from 9/11 first responder fire fighters, and non-exposed fire fighters as a control. We will leverage this unique sample repository and our newly developed methodology to study over time blood stem cells of individuals who have donate samples to this repository. Our study will be instrumental to improve diagnostic assessment, including at blood the stem cell level, and this may help to improve treatment selection focused on the true root of the disease. In addition, our study may be helpful for the development of treatment strategies for the prevention of leukemia in the future.