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BU researcher receives grant to better understand lymphoblastic leukemia

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(Boston)–Hui Feng, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), is the recipient of a four-year, $792,000 grant from the American Cancer Society (ACS) to study why T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is so aggressive and resistant to treatment.

Through genomic analysis of patient samples and genetic studies of experimental model systems, Feng's laboratory identified a novel contributor to leukemia's aggressiveness. They found this protein helps tumor cells cope with stress, and thus plays a role in the aggressiveness of T-ALL and its rapid dissemination throughout the body.

The grant will allow Feng to further her research on why this protein contributes to the aggressiveness of this disease and to test whether targeting the protein itself or its associated pathways through available drugs is effective in treating patients with high risk, resistant T-ALL.

Leukemia is a blood cancer that affects individuals of all ages. T-ALL is a particularly aggressive subtype of leukemia which is fatal in 20 percent of children and 50 percent of adults with the disease. "Because of these discouraging odds, and because current treatments remain highly toxic to patients, continued research efforts are needed to understand what causes the disease's aggressiveness and its resistance to treatment, and to identify alternative treatments that are effective but minimally toxic," explained Feng.

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The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.

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Gina DiGravio
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