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Washington University Wins $25.6M for Leukemia Genomics, Personalized Medicine Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Research teams at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine have received two grants totaling $25.6 million from the National Cancer Institute to fund genomics studies focused on developing better treatments for leukemia patients.

Washington University St. Louis said on Thursday that the Siteman investigators have received a $14.3 million grant to fund a program project grant (PPG) that aims to identify all of the genetic changes involved in the development and progression of acute myeloid leukemia, and an $11.3 million Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) award for projects that seek to improve and develop treatments for acute leukemia.

The two grants will involve several dozen physician scientists and basic scientists working on a wide range of lab-based and clinical research efforts targeting leukemia genomics and personalized medicine approaches to treating it.

The PPG award will fund four projects focused on AML, a leukemia subtype that kills 80 percent of the patients who have it within five years when the disease returns. These projects will seek to determine which genetic changes are involved in patient relapse, find ways to predict relapse, determine why some patients develop leukemia after being treated for other cancers, and define the inherited mutations that dramatically increase the risk of AML in some families. The hope is that these studies will lead to personalized treatments based on genetic and molecular signatures in the cancer cells.

The SPORE grant will support projects that seek to use genomics to predict patient response to therapy, develop novel therapies for AML and acute lymphocytic leukemia, test a new approach to treating graft-versus-host disease, and evaluate new treatments and therapeutic approaches in clinical trials.

"There's important synergy between the two grants," Timothy Ley, principal investigator of the PPG and a chair in oncology at WUSTL, said in a statement. "The PPG focuses on basic research to generate ideas, concepts, and technologies that can be evaluated in clinical trials via the SPORE grant."