Leukemia Scientists Collect $20 Million Grant

    The Rebecca and John Moores Cancer Center was awarded a $20 million grant by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine last week for the purpose of developing leukemia-fighting drugs.

    CIRM’s 29-member governing board announced its decision to approve funding for the Moores Cancer Center, along with 13 other multidisciplinary teams, on Oct. 28.

    Though scientists currently have a greater understanding of the blood-forming cells that cause leukemia than any other type of cancer-causing cells, they have not yet translated this knowledge into an effective treatment for the disease.

    Experimental results suggest it will soon be possible to destroy leukemia stem cells, using a drug or combination of drugs, while causing minimal damage to normal cells.

    UCSD’s research team will develop each of six existing molecules that target leukemia stem cells — but not normal, blood-forming or hematopoietic stem cells — in an effort to find a potential cure. The molecules will be tested against both chronic and acute forms of leukemia.

    The new grant marks the first CIRM funding effort expected to result in FDA approval for a clinical trial: Experts believe the research funded by the grant will result in an effective drug.

    The grant will fund research over a four-year period. The team of researchers will receive incremental funding as it achieves milestones set by the CIRM and CIRM’s international partners.

    CIRM was created in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, which allocated $3 billion in bond money over a period of 10 years for embryonic stem-cell research and other biomedical studies.

    Including the latest leukemia research grant, the total amount of funds awarded by CIRM to UCSD is nearly $65.6 million since the institute’s inception in 2006.

    “We are gratified to learn that CIRM once again has recognized the ingenuity, commitment and efforts of stem-cell scientists at UC San Diego Health Sciences, and provided them such generous support,” Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences and School of Medicine Dean David Brenner said in a statement.

    Moores Cancer Center Director Dennis A. Carson and cancer stem-cell research program director Catriona Jamieson will lead the team of researchers.

    “This award will fund a team — including researchers from disparate disciplines and key industry-academic partners — to develop novel therapies targeting leukemia stem cells, with the goal of moving to clinical trials in the shortest possible time frame,” Jamieson said. “Throughout California, scientists and physicians working in stem-cell research are keeping their eyes on the goal of getting these promising therapies to patients as quickly — and safely — as possible.”

    The Moores Cancer Center will work in collaboration with John Dick, a leukemia stem-cell scientist at the University of Toronto, and his research team.

    Readers can contact Sarah Smith at [email protected].

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