$5 million grant awarded to U.VA health system targets leukemia drug development, creates new jobs

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- A research team at the University of Virginia Health System has been awarded a five-year, $5 million grant to develop new targeted drug treatments for leukemia, or cancer of the blood. The grant comes from The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. John Bushweller, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of molecular physiology and biological physics will share the grant with Milton Brown, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry.

"We are on the brink of a very exciting time for the treatment of leukemia," Bushweller said. "Our goal is to develop new drugs that encourage specific molecules to inhibit certain altered proteins that arise in leukemia patients. If we can selectively inhibit these proteins, we hope that leukemia can be shut down. Since the molecules are selective, the side effects of treatment and the long-term prognosis for leukemia patients should be significantly better than they are today."

Bushweller also expects the grant to create about eight new research jobs at the U.Va. Health System.

He cites the success of the targeted chemotherapy drug Gleevec for chronic myelogenous leukemia as a powerful example of the potential of this targeted approach. "Our project is based on this concept," Bushweller said. "We hope that our research will make it to clinical trials in patients and prove to be a highly effective weapon in the treatment of leukemia."

Bushweller's group will use three-dimensional structures and computational methods, in combination with screening, to develop small molecules synthesized by Brown's lab that will bind at a desired site on the altered proteins that arise in leukemia and inhibit the proteins.

The grant from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is called a Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant. "The cornerstone of the SCOR program is its collaborative structure, "said Alan Kinniburgh, Ph.D., senior vice president of research at the Socie

Contact: Bob Beard
University of Virginia Health System

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