Development of novel therapies for megakaryocytic malignancies

  • Wen, Qiang (PD/PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

As a research assistant professor in the laboratory of Dr. John Crispino, I lead a major effort to develop novel
therapies for patients with blood cancers, I assist other lab members in their translational initiatives, and I
collaborate with external colleagues to enhance their cancer research. The main area of my research involves
the investigation of the pathogenesis of acute megakaryocytic leukemia (AMKL), and the role of
megakaryocytes in the development of other blood cancers, such as primary myelofibrosis (PMF), which is a
subtype of the myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). During normal development, megakaryocytes progress
through repeated rounds of the cell cycle without cell division to become polyploid. I hypothesized that small
molecules that could force malignant megakaryocytes to become polyploid and differentiate would act as antitumor
agents. Indeed, I discovered that megakaryocytic polyploidy inducing molecules such as dimethylfasudil
and MLN8237 (Alisertib), which inhibit Aurora A kinase, have potent anti-AMKL activity in vitro and in vivo.
Moreover, these compounds showed strong anti-tumor activity in patient samples and mouse models of PMF.
These findings lead to the opening of a Phase 1 clinical trial of Alisertib in patients with AMKL or PMF. From
this study I accumulated an enormous amount of experience in drug development from the design of high
throughput small molecule and RNAi screens to preclinical studies with animal models. Over the next five
years, I will leverage my experience to further my own research as well as to aid lab colleagues in their studies
to find new therapies for hematologic malignancies. My work can be divided into four focus areas: A)
development of therapies for megakaryocytic malignancies; B) validation of PAK1 as a target in the MPNs; C)
development of DYRK1A inhibitors for AMKL and B-ALL in children with Down syndrome; D) investigation of
novel therapies to target cohesin mutations in AMKL and AML. I look forward to continuing to be an
instrumental leader in Dr. Crispino's lab, to collaborating with other NCI-funded investigators, and to bringing
more novel therapeutics to patients.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date9/19/168/31/21

Funding

  • National Cancer Institute (5R50CA211534-04)

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