There are three main types of blood cancers. Leukemia is a cancer found in your blood and bone marrow, lymphoma is a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system and myeloma is a blood cancer that specifically targets plasma cells. Each year, these types of cancer account for approximately 10% of all new cancer diagnoses.
- An estimated 178,520 new cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020, with 56,840 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis.
- Every three minutes, one person in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer.
- Leukemias are the most common cancers in children and account for 28% of all childhood cancers.
- More than 1.3 million people in the U.S. are either living with or in remission today from a blood cancer.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2020 and and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Blood Cancer Research
In addition to specific projects listed below, genomics research is helping us attack blood cancers – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics.
Leukemia is a great success story for cancer research — one in which NFCR-affiliated scientist Dr. Curt Civin played an important role. His early work on bone marrow stem cell transplantation was partially responsible for the dramatic increase of the five-year survival for all types of leukemia over the past 20 years.
And now, for patients still suffering from cancer and waiting for a cure, Dr. Civin’s current research may once again hold the key. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the deadliest form of leukemia. Dr. Civin discovered that artemisinins – a class of drugs with low toxicity used to successfully treat malaria – are also effective in killing AML cancer cells. Through research, he identified ART-838, a specific artemisinin compound, that shows remarkable effectiveness against leukemia cells and works well in combination with established anti-leukemia drugs. Further, it doesn’t appear to harm normal bone marrow cells. With support from NFCR’s AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative, next generation drug modeling software is creating the best chemical structure of ART-838 for optimal treatment outcomes for AML patients.
NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Michael Sporn, conducted research on fenrentinide, a drug with similar structure to Vitamin A. He proved its safety for use in humans. It subsequently was shown to be both safe and efficacious in treating several cancers. However, fenretinide is poorly soluble in water (our bodies are composed of 60% water) and as a drug, it faced the challenge of delivering adequate doses to tumor cells. With support from the NFCR AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative, a novel delivery system has been designed to solve this problem. The unique delivery agent and fenrentinide have gained approval to treat T cell-non Hodgkin lymphoma patients who have relapsed or stopped responding to their current therapy. Enrollment in the Phase 1 trial begins in 2020.
With NFCR support since 2006, Dr. Wei Zhang, a leader in precision oncology, characterizes underlying genetic mechanisms responsible for cancer growth and progression. His research addresses the variability in cellular properties, within and across cancer types, which often leads to treatment resistance and poor survival in patients. Dr. Zhang’s precision oncology approach has the potential to improve outcomes for T cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Acute Myeloid leukemia (AML) patients that have stopped responding to standard treatments.
Dr. Cesare Spadoni is leading a team to develop treatments for the most common pediatric cancers with the poorest prognosis including Acute Myeloid Leukemia. In the oncology community, there is a void of cancer drugs specifically developed to treat children. His team identifies and characterizes new oncogenic pathways and the pathway interconnections may facilitate development of novel pediatric cancer drugs, ensuring more effective and less toxic cancer treatments. With this information, the scientists aim to repurpose known drugs and identify new combinations of drugs for pediatric cancers. They hope this research and drug discovery philosophy will bring a new treatment for AML in children.
Dr. Spadoni’s team with support from the NFCR AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative is first focusing their treatment development efforts on the difficult-to-treat cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma. A clinical trial is planned in 2020.