July 24, 2009

Researcher’s work gains leukemia society support

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Utpal Davé, M.D.

Researcher’s work gains leukemia society support

Utpal Davé, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The three-year award will support research into JAK3, among a family of tyrosine kinase enzymes crucial to cell growth and division.

“I am honored to receive this generous grant from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” said Davé. “The grant will allow us to perform preclinical studies that would support the development of JAK3 as a therapeutic target in human leukemias and lymphomas.”

JAK3 attaches phosphates to proteins that are related to the normal function of the human immune system. Babies born without JAK3 do not make special immune system T cells and typically die within one or two years from infections.

JAK3 mutations also have been linked to several types of leukemia and lymphoma. Davé and other researchers have already discovered JAK3 mutations that are implicated in Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATLL). This incurable cancer is induced by both viral and host cancer-causing genes.

The new research will quantify the incidence of JAK3 mutations in a group of ATLL patient samples along with other JAK3 implicated diseases such as acute megakaryocytic leukemia (AMKL) and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL).

“The discovery of JAK3 mutations in so many forms of leukemia and lymphoma underscores the importance of this pathway in cancer progression,” said Davé.

His group hopes to develop mouse models in which the disease by mutant JAK3s can be analyzed in vivo. Specific inhibitors of JAK3 may also be tested as potential drug targets.