See also our related blog for the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Initiative.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcoming Lara !

We are excited to welcome physician-scientist trainee, Dr. Lara Davis to the Keller laboratory.  Lara is one of those rare physicians who will be qualified to treat both child and adult cancer patients.

in Lara's words:

After graduating from Wellesley College with a BA in Neuroscience, I attended medical school at OHSU where learning about new targeted therapies such as Gleevec sparked my interest in oncology early on.  During medical school, I found myself enjoying caring for both children and adults with cancer and thus decided to pursue residency training in Med-Peds.  I completed the four-year training in the Harvard Med-Peds Program at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston and am now board certified in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  My interest in oncology evolved throughout residency to a focus on adolescents and young adults (AYA), an often over-looked population.  I worked with Dr Linda Stork and Dr Brandon Hayes-Lattin to design a combined fellowship at OHSU and am now completing my second clinical year (one in peds hem/onc, one in medical onc).  This summer I will join the Keller lab to pursue my interest in identifying targeted therapies for cancers that disproportionately affect AYA patients, particularly sarcomas.
We are thankful to have such a talented young person join our team.  We fully expect that Lara will be a future leader in personalized medicine for sarcomas, particularly osteosarcoma.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rhabdomyosarcoma Study published in Cancer Cell

In a report published today as the Featured Article in the journal Cancer Cell, investigators at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) reveal interesting new findings for a kind of cancer called sarcoma.  The most common sarcoma of children occurs in the muscle and has an appearance of muscle (rhabdomyosarcoma).  In adults, sarcomas are often even more primitive appear (undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma).  In their report, the Keller Laboratory reveals that childhood and adult sarcomas are linked in their biology, mutations and the cells from which these tumors first start.
Childhood muscle cancer, or rhabdomyosarcoma, is a condition that when spread throughout the body leads to a low survival rate – only 20 – 40%.  In adults with soft tissue sarcomas, survival can be even lower.  Now, for the first time, scientists and doctors know from where these tumors arise and what drives them to grow and spread.  Armed with this new information, the researchers in the Pediatric Cancer Biology Program at OHSU are looking for ways to stop or eradicate these sarcomas.
“A commonly held belief is that cancers should be cut out, burned out or killed.  There is a fourth option – to have cancer cells choose to become normal cells, in this case muscle cells,” says Dr. Keller, who led the study.  “A least for a subset of patients, possibly the ones with hereditary cancer, one approach suggested by our research might be to administer drugs that muscle cancers to convert into non-cancerous muscle fibers.  This is a minority opinion, but one held by a small group of careful scientists throughout the US and abroad.”
The survival rate for childhood muscle cancer that has spread has remained unchanged for more than 40 years.  It has reached the point that increasing the intensity of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery is no longer having any improved effect.  A novel approach taken by Keller and his colleagues in the laboratory as well as in new clinical trials is to use non-chemotherapy medicines to inhibit “molecular targets” such as growth factor receptors in this disease.  Suman Malempati, Director of the Oncology Developmental Therapeutics Program at OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, is the lead on a national clinical trial of one such growth factor inhibitor.  This study is the first trial to incorporate a molecularly-targeted drug into a clinical trial for childhood muscle cancer for the Children’s Oncology Group/Curesearch, a nationwide network of hospitals, doctors and leading scientists that develop new treatments for childhood cancer.  This type of therapy tailored to a cancer’s mutation was first pioneered at OHSU by DeBakey-Lasker Award Recipient, Dr. Brian J. Druker.  Dr. Druker and his colleagues developed a non-chemotherapy pill, Gleevec, which when taken each day causes a form of blood cancer, chronic myelogenous leukemia, to remain dormant indefinitely.  Personalized Cancer Care for children and adults is the primary mission of the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU.  

We are grateful to the Scott Carter Foundation for the fellowship support of Jinu Abraham and Koichi Nishijo that has made these studies possible.  
For the Preview commentary, click here
For the Article itself, click go to the main page or here

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Congratulations, Suresh !

Congratulations to Suresh whose study, "Contrast Enhanced Vessel Imaging using MicroCT" was just published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.  This study was nearly entirely written and executed by Suresh in the same month that our laboratory moved from Texas to OHSU.  Suresh is a standalone expert in the field of small animal imaging, and it is our great pleasure to have had him as a key member of our team for so many years.  Not only is the technique presented by Suresh from our lab's work important in the study of genetically-engineered mouse models of cancer, but the journal format in which it is presented, a full video production, is an important new approach to sharing information and expertise about techniques.
Again, Suresh, many congratulations!