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The work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital investigators was featured in more than 30 presentations, educational symposiums, “meet-the-expert” sessions and other settings during the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) 101st Annual Meeting 2010. The meeting, which wrapped up April 21 in Washington, D.C., attracted more than 16,000 scientists, clinicians, cancer survivors and others.
St. Jude researchers gave presentations that touched on moving laboratory discoveries into clinical trials, a mutation that underlies a subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), advances in understanding a member of the tyrosine kinase family of enzymes linked to a variety of childhood and adult cancers as well as a new role for the Arf tumor suppressor gene.
The AACR, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1907, is widely recognized as the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. Members include scientists, health providers, cancer patients and advocates from the U.S. and almost 90 other countries worldwide.
Among those presenting at the meeting, Michael Dyer, PhD, Developmental Neurobiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist, chaired a session titled “New Concepts in Organ Site Research.” He also discussed work underway in his laboratory to develop a localized treatment for the childhood eye tumor retinoblastoma.
In the same session, Richard Gilbertson, MD, PhD, Developmental Neurobiology, discussed research that provides new insights into the origins of medulloblastomas and ependymomas, two of the most common brain tumors in children. Investigators analyzed tissue from hundreds of human tumors and identified cancer subgroups that harbor amplifications and deletions in specific genes, some not previously linked to brain tumors.
In another presentation, Racquel Collins-Underwood, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow, outlined new evidence that mutation of the IKZF1 gene helps launch an aggressive subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) known as BCR-ABL1 positive pre-B ALL. Collins-Underwood works in the laboratory of Charles Mullighan, MD, PhD, Pathology, who is the study’s senior author.
In a session devoted to anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), Stephan Morris, MD, Pathology, discussed advances in understanding the role ALK plays in several types of blood cancer. He also outlined how normal ALK function contributes to safeguarding the nervous system from injury, degenerative illnesses or narcotics use. ALK belongs to the tyrosine kinase family of enzymes, which, when mutated, can drive the uncontrolled cell division that is a hallmark of cancer.
Charles Sherr, MD, PhD, chaired a symposium titled “The p53 Pathway: From Start to Finish.” In the same session he discussed work from his laboratory about the previously unrecognized role that the tumor suppressor gene Arf plays in regulating normal cellular functions. Arf is part of the p53 pathway that can halt cell division or even trigger cell death. Sherr is co-chair of Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology department and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.