Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) investigator Yong-Mi Kim MD, PhD, MPH received $1.2 million to study drug resistance for leukemia. The investigator notes that leukemia cells can hide in bones; in fact, most relapses occur in bone marrow. The research funds will be used to study a type of molecule responsible for keeping many cells in the body fixed in their proper places—known as integrins. Investigator Kim reports “our lab is different from others because we try to see things from the perspective of the microenvironment,” Kim says.
Now that she has established a role for integrin alpha 4, she aims to uncover other integrins that likely work in concert to shield ALL cells from chemotherapy. Once all the key players are identified, treatments can be devised to block the activity of these integrins, so leukemia will have nowhere to hide. Kim’s grant, which was funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute, will help her to pinpoint which integrins will make for the best treatment targets. “We want to harness this knowledge, target these molecules, and eventually make it to a clinical trial,” Kim explains.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most prevalent childhood cancer with over 3,000 new cases reported each year. Most patients survive following chemotherapy treatments, but some patients do not respond well—experiencing drug resistance and relapses in the disease.
Yong-Mi Kim MD, PhD, MPH