CHICAGO -- Rauol Tibes, M.D., Ph.D., the associate director of the Acute and Chronic Leukemias Program at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, will receive a Career Development Award from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (formerly known as the ASCO Cancer Foundation) at the annual ASCO meeting this weekend in Chicago.
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Dr. Tibes is one of only eight researchers in the United States selected to receive the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Career Development Award this year. The award, a three year grant totaling $200,000, will help fund the next phase of Mayo Clinic's translational research in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) led by Dr. Tibes and his team of colleagues.
The Career Development Awards are presented to physicians who are within their first to third year of full-time, primary faculty appointment in a clinical department at an academic medical institution.
"I am very happy and proud," said Dr. Tibes, upon learning that his research effort from his laboratory, designed to advance new therapies for patients with acute leukemias, was recognized with this honor.
The crux of this translational research focuses on how to make the drug Cytarabine (one of the most actively used drugs administered to leukemia patients), more potent and effective, particularly for leukemia patients who have failed prior therapies and whose leukemia has relapsed.
Dr. Tibes said this kind of translational research project was greatly accelerated when he and his team began adapting RNA interference (RNAi) to leukemia research.
"We performed a large scale RNAi screening knocking down (or inhibiting) 572 kinases (genes that drive growth)," explained Dr. Tibes. "As a result, when the WEE1 kinase was inhibited, a more potent effect of Cytarabine was produced."
"This technology allowed us to select the gene, out of hundreds to thousands of genes, that most strongly enhances the activity of Cytarabine. This is a tremendous selection to pick the "winner" gene that can then be targeted with new drugs together with Cytarabine," said Dr. Tibes, who, along with his laboratory team, is performing similar RNAi screens for other commonly used cancer drugs with the goal of accelerating the design of new therapies for Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Tibes said the proposed next step is to take the positive findings of the Cytarabine combination with the WEE1 kinase inhibitor he has seen in the laboratory setting and translate it to a clinical trial to see if it is a more effective therapy for patients with advanced, acute and chronic leukemias.
"One of our goals at Mayo Clinic is to improve patient care through translational research," said Keith Stewart, M.B.Ch.B., dean of research at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "It is our hope this research may offer leukemia patients a treatment alternative when standard therapies fail," Dr. Stewart added.
"One of the big challenges, especially for acute leukemias, is that therapies haven't changed in decades. The treatment of acute leukemias, specifically AML has lagged behind. We aim to find new therapeutic combinations for patients with this research," said Ruben Mesa, M.D., chair, Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
For additional information on the Career Development Award, please visit:
About the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
The Conquer Cancer Foundation is working to create a world free from the fear of cancer by funding breakthrough research, by sharing knowledge with physicians and patients worldwide, and by supporting initiatives to ensure that all people have access to high-quality cancer care. Working in close collaboration with a global network of top scientists and clinicians, as well as leading advocacy and research organizations, the Foundation draws on the passion and expertise of the nearly 30,000 oncology professionals who are members of its affiliate organization, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO.) For more information, visit www.conquercancerfoundation.org.