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May 17, 2023

Children’s Cancer Research Fund Backs UVA Leukemia Research

Cancer treatment discussion

Children’s Cancer Research Fund has awarded $250,000 to an innovative new approach to treating leukemia – blood cancer – being developed at UVA Cancer Center.

The grant to John H. Bushweller, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, is part of the national nonprofit’s efforts to accelerate the development of new and better treatments for difficult-to-treat cancers.

“This funding makes it possible to continue developing a novel approach to treatment for a form of pediatric leukemia with a very poor prognosis,” said Bushweller, of UVA’s Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics. “For pediatric cancers in particular, the development of highly targeted approaches that directly inhibit the protein that drives the cancer has the potential to be more effective and to limit the substantial toxicity of current approaches, vastly improving outcomes for these patients. This is exactly the approach we are pursuing with the support of CCRF.”

Better Leukemia Treatment

Bushweller and his team are developing drugs to block the effect of an abnormal protein that is formed when the protein MLL becomes fused to other proteins and alters the cell, resulting in either acute myeloid leukemia or acute lymphocytic leukemia. Bushweller and his team found in their lab models that blocking the ability of these abnormal proteins to bind to DNA completely prevented it from causing leukemia. Based on those results, they are working to develop drugs that disrupt this DNA binding as a novel approach for treatment.

Based on the promising results so far, Bushweller believes his new approach could be both more effective and less toxic than existing options for treating leukemia. Further, he hopes that the new approach could be combined with existing drugs to provide unique benefits for patients.

“The potential benefits to patients include improved efficacy leading to better outcomes and much reduced toxicity leading to far better quality of life and reduced long-term health effects from the treatment,” he said.

About Children’s Cancer Research Fund

Children’s Cancer Research Fund is a national nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood cancer. It backs promising research from top scientists across the country, funding projects that could make the greatest impact for children battling cancer. Since 1981, the group has contributed more than $200 million to research, support programs for children and their families and cancer awareness and education outreach efforts.

“At Children’s Cancer Research Fund, we select and fund the best and most innovative research to advance breakthrough treatments for children’s cancer. And we are excited about Dr. Bushweller’s promising results,” said Jean Machart, chief operating officer and interim chief executive officer at Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

About UVA Cancer Center

Developing new and better ways to treat cancers is a primary mission of UVA Cancer Center. In recognition of UVA Cancer Center’s outstanding research and patient care, the National Institute has designated it one of only 54 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country. The designation recognizes elite cancer centers with the most exceptional cancer programs in the nation.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA Cancer Center and the rest of UVA Health, including the UVA School of Medicine and the UVA School of Nursing, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog 

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