Local research committee hosts cancer event
University researchers discover targeted treatment method for leukemia
The Patient & Friends Research Committee of the University’s Cancer Center hosted their annual “Hot Topics in Cancer Event” Thursday in Alumni Hall, showcasing the groundbreaking blood cancer research being conducted at the University.
John Bushweller and Michael Williams, both of whom work at the University’s Cancer Center, presented their ongoing leukemia research at the event. They are looking into treating lekemia and lymphoma cells with targeted therapeutics, a method that would allow doctors to eradicate only patients’ aberrant cells. Conventional chemotherapy does not discriminate between healthy and cancerous cells and often leads to significant health complications.
“Targeted therapy has the potential to be much more effective and far less toxic than traditional chemotherapy,” Bushweller said. “In the testing we’ve done … we’ve gotten significant efficacy.”
Committee founder and Chair Meredith Gunter, who is a three-time cancer survivor, lauded their efforts from the perspective of a patient.
“Chemotherapy essentially poisons your [entire] body to cure cancer,” Gunter said. “To [transition to curing] cancer by taking a pill that only targets the cancer cells, that is going to hugely change the quality of life for those patients [while] increasing survival.”
While the promise of this new treatment is exciting, issues remain with moving such innovative solutions from labs to pharmaceutical companies, where much more funding is available.
“Since there is a small-patient pool [for acute myelogenous leukemia], pharmaceutical companies are hesitant to provide funding for our technology,” Bushweller said.
To try to make their treatment more marketable to pharmaceutical companies, Bushweller said his team is currently looking to see if they can extend their methods toward treating other types of cancers, as well. Doing so would decrease pharmaceutical companies’ financial doubts and open the door for increased public funding.
“The challenge they face is that the really exciting ideas in cancer care are revolutionary, and most of the pharmaceutical companies want to invest in things that aren’t so risky,” Gunter said.
The committee is attempting to remedy this roadblock by raising a stream of private, largely local, funding to drive local research forward.