Impressive Show at ASH Meeting Highlights Progress in Wilmot Research

December 09, 2011

James P. Wilmot Cancer Center researchers had a strong showing among the top presenters at this year’s annual meeting for the American Society of Hematology (ASH), December 10 to 13, in San Diego.

Several faculty members at the University of Rochester Medical Center were invited to showcase their work in more than 20 posters, 18 talks, and two education sessions. The ASH meeting is attended by approximately 20,000 physicians and scientists who share findings on the latest research and clinical treatments. ASH is the world’s largest professional association concerned with blood disorders including cancer.

Thousands of abstracts are submitted to ASH in advance of the meeting, and those deemed to have the most impact – the top 15 percent – are chosen for oral presentations.

“Given our relatively small faculty, it is extremely encouraging to see such a large group of researchers and clinicians selected to take part in this high-profile meeting,” said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., the Samuel E. Durand Professor of Medicine and director of the Wilmot Cancer Center.

“It is also important to emphasize that Rochester is contributing exciting new work in a wide range of topics, from stem cell biology and thrombosis to new clinical developments in leukemia and lymphoma,” added Jonathan Friedberg, M.D., chief of Hematology/Oncology at Wilmot. “Our program has been on a mission to push growth in several areas and it is clearly beginning to pay off.”

Here is a sample of some of the URMC presentations at ASH:

  • Friedberg moderated two educational sessions on lymphoma, and the impact of treatment on aggressive forms of the disease. He is also took part in several presentations on investigational drugs for lymphoma.
  • Fisher is part of a national group that reported on newly discovered genetic signatures in advanced stage Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Several scientists in the lab of Craig T. Jordan, Ph.D., the Philip and Marilyn Wehrheim Professor of Medicine at Wilmot, presented findings involving leukemia.  Among them:  Eleni Lagadinou, M.D., Ph.D., and John Ashton, Ph.D., discussed separate projects regarding the identification of new therapeutic targets for leukemia stem cells. Another Jordan lab collaborator, Chen Zhao, M.D., Ph.D., who works with Brendan F. Boyce, M.D., in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, noted the discovery of a signaling pathway that regulates the self-renewal of blood stem cells.
  • The lab of Laura M. Calvi, M.D., associate professor at Wilmot, studies the relationship between bone cell and stem cell biology. Three Calvi lab scientists made presentations: graduate student Ben Frisch discussed osteoblastic dysfunction in a mouse model of leukemia, a study which is in press in the journal Blood; graduate student Julianne Smith discussed the role of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), for changes that occur in the bone marrow that result in blood stem cell expansion; and Rebecca Porter, an M.D./Ph.D. student, presented on the effects of prostaglandin E2, a substance released by blood vessels, on the stem cells that give rise to all blood types.
  • Three members of the lab of Pediatrics professor James Palis, M.D. presented studies on blood cell formation. Kathleen McGrath, Ph.D., discussed a unique type of blood cell progenitor found during early embryogenesis, which ultimately might lead to treatment following severe injury of the bone marrow. Scott Paslak, an M.D./Ph.D. student, spoke about the multiple steps involved in bone marrow recovery from radiation exposure. Graduate student Jeff Malik discussed the role of the hormone erythropoietin in early maturation of red blood cells.
  • Jane Liesveld, M.D., a clinical oncologist and Wilmot researcher, is involved in several collaborative presentations on the safety and tolerability of new drugs for acute leukemia, and recovery of stem cell transplantation.
  • Alok Khorana, M.D., report his findings from the largest population study to date of cancer patients who suffer from blood clots. (See related story.)

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