Hematologic Malignancies Program
Description of the Program
Collectively, hematological malignancies account for approximately 8% of all cancers with a considerably higher (>3 fold) proportion of childhood cancers (http://www.seer.cancer.gov). Over the past 20 years the overall incidence of hematological cancers in the Western world has increased, primarily due to the increase in adult population (http://www.seer.cancer.gov). According to recent population studies 18.2% of Florida residents are older than 65 years of age consequently, Florida is likely to have some of the highest incidence of hematological cancers in the country. Few patients within this growing population are eligible for stem cell transplantation making safer and more effective therapies a major unmet need.
The overall mission of the Hematologic Malignancies (HM) Program is to combine multidisciplinary approaches and deliver effective and curative strategies for range of hematological malignancies, for which treatments have not improved/changed over the past decades and prognoses remain unacceptably poor.
The HM program is disease focused with strong clinical leadership in myeloid and lymphoid malignancies, including childhood cancers. The Program brings together basic laboratory research, molecular diagnostics and treatment of the blood cell cancers of adults and children. The Program comprises of an excellent group of basic/translational and clinical investigators whose common goal is rational and mechanism driven drug development. The goal is also to move toward a precision medicine which would deliver most specific individualized therapies that are firmly based in molecular pathology of patients and their diseases. Against this backdrop, understanding the pathogenesis of malignancy therefore requires knowledge of (i) the nature of the underlying mutations, (ii) the cellular framework in which they arise and (iii) their functional impact and its dependence on cellular context. Our Program and infrastructure are perfectly geared to deliver these objectives.
There are strong inter and intra program collaborations that are documented by shared resources, publications and funding. The program is an example of an integrated research approach where basic laboratory findings can be rapidly translated toward clinical use and, in turn, clinical findings can feed back and guide basic research.
Goals of the Program
The Program’s major objectives are to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of hematological malignancies and apply this knowledge to improve the management of patients via the development of new molecular tools for differential diagnosis, prognosis, monitoring and treatment. Additional aims include continuous improvement in patient care by facilitating access to novel clinical trials, which are undergoing exponential growth. Current investigational-targeted therapies include, epigenetic/differentiation therapies in AML/MDS, immunotherapies, therapies directed against oncoviruses, and trials of agents targeting disease causing intracellular pathways (neddylation for example).