Researchers from Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine presented new research findings in 25 presentations this weekend at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology at the San Diego Convention Center.
“The breadth and depth of this innovative cancer research presented at ASH is truly outstanding.” – Stan Gerson MD Director Seidman Cancer Center
“Our faculty members are making tremendous advances in hematology and oncology which is reflected in their being chosen for oral and poster presentations,” he stated.
Speaking at the Scientific Symposium on Lymphoid Neoplasia during a session on Autophagy and Metabolism in Lymphoid Malignancies, Dr. Clark Distelhorst provided a synthesis of the latest research indicating that autophagy occurs in lymphoid malignancies and may be a novel therapeutic target for lymphoma and other lymphoid neoplasia. His research suggests that targeting autophagy (a process through which cells eat parts of themselves to generate sufficient energy to stay alive) may be a useful adjunct to the longstanding use of glucocorticoids, such as prednisone, to kill cancer cells.
His session outlines the growing body of evidence that treatments aimed at inducing autophagy have great promise in treating lymphoid malignancies. Distelhorst presented important data explaining how glucocorticoids starve tumor cells of glucose and thus induce autophagy. Researchers identified the Dexamethasone-induced Gene 2 (dig2) that encodes a protein mediator of autophagy.
“This new cancer-fighting strategy lays the groundwork for further development of autophagy inhibitors to enhance the glucocorticoids properties.” Clark Distelhorst MD Vice-Chair ASH subcommittee on Lymphoid Neoplasia
“This is a major step forward in our research efforts to develop new therapies for lymphoid malignancies,” he said.
In a poster presentation, Jeffery Auletta and Kenneth Cooke and colleagues presented significant findings that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) effectively treat graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) while not interfering with bone marrow transplant’s efficacy in treating leukemia.
MSCs are non-hematopoietic (not blood-forming cells) adult stem cells found in the bone marrow and were discovered at UH Seidman Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University. They maintain hematopoietic stem cell (blood-forming cells) development and also differentiate into fat cells, bone cells and cartilage cells. These have been shown to suppress immune responses ex vivo (outside the body in cell culture conditions).
Due to these properties, MSCs have been used to treat GvHD in bone marrow transplant patients. However, how MSC immunomodulation works in vivo (inside the body) has not been well studied, and, in fact, could potentially promote leukemia/lymphoma recurrence in transplant patients. The benefit of BMT is that the donor graft kills residual leukemia in the transplant recipient (host), a process called graft-versus-leukemia .