Zhaohui Gu, PhD

This research is focused on better understanding and improving treatments for a specific kind of blood cancer, known as B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or B-ALL. Although the treatment for childhood B-ALL has been greatly improved, long-term survival for adult patients is still under 50%. Our research showed that about 13% of adult B-ALL patients have mutations in PAX5 gene, which is critical for B-cell development. Two B-ALL subtypes are defined by PAX5 mutations: PAX5alt and PAX5 P80R. Surprisingly, survival rates vary greatly between these two subtypes (30% vs. 65%), which suggests that different genetic characteristics are involved.
The goal of our research is to better understand the biological changes and genetic markers linked to B-ALL from different PAX5 mutations. Based on our preliminary study, we believe that certain PAX5 mutations block normal B-cell development, thus creating cells that are more likely to develop into leukemia. Our objectives are to 1) Explore how PAX5 mutations influence the normal DNA patterns and gene activities in B cells, and 2) Investigate how these mutations drive leukemia development step by step.
We anticipate that our work will shed light on how PAX5 mutations disrupt B-cell development, thereby initiating leukemia. Our results will provide a comprehensive insight into understanding PAX5 mutations in B-ALL. This will enhance our knowledge about the role of PAX5 mutations and the mechanisms in disease initiation and clinical outcomes. Understanding these mechanisms could pave the way for more effective, targeted therapies for this high-risk leukemia subtype in adult patients.

Location: City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center - Duarte
Proposal: Delineating the molecular features and mechanisms of PAX5-mutant acute lymphoblastic leukemia
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