When funded next April, the St. Jude grant is estimated to exceed $9 million.
The grant proposal includes five local projects focusing on stem cell transplantation, pneumococcal infection in sickle cell patients, combination drug therapy, gene therapy and molecular biology of hemoglobin development. The proposal also includes a multi-center project examining the effectiveness of the drugs hydroxyurea and magnesium used in combination to combat the clinical complications of sickle cell disease.
As a result of the grant, St. Jude sickle cell patients will have more opportunities for new therapies and participation in groundbreaking clinical trials.
"This is the first step toward the development of a national clinical trials network for sickle cell disease," said Winfred Wang, M.D., director of the St. Jude Hematology Division. "This is an approach that has been successful in improving outcomes for pediatric cancers and thalassemia (a genetic blood disorder) but has not been available for sickle cell disease."
Wang said the grant will make possible several planned initiatives, including evaluating patients to determine if they fall into high-risk categories and tailoring therapies accordingly. Wang also hopes to give sickle cell patients from St. Jude Domestic Affiliate clinics the opportunity to participate in clinical trials and come to Memphis regularly for evaluation. Additionally, the St. Jude sickle cell program will develop closer ties to centers treating adult sickle cell disease, sharing research and treatment findings.