The Stem Cells, Differentiation and Cancer Program evolved from the former Cell Growth and Differentiation Control Program with the inclusion of scientists from the former Immuno-oncology program that study B cell biology and lymphoid malignancies. The program was further strengthened by the formation of a Stem Cell Institute at Einstein with the recruitment of four cancer stem cell investigators. There are three major research themes that partially overlap: the myeloid leukemias, lymphoid malignancies and stem cell biology, with a continued emphasis on regulation at the transcriptional level. While there is a focus on hematological malignancies, the stem cell research extends to hepatic, neural, and mammary stem cells. Dr. E. Richard Stanley is leader of this newly configured program. The appointment of Dr. Amit Verma, physician scientist, as Co-Program leader and the establishment of a Hematological Malignancies Working Group has catalyzed translation and increased the number of correlative and therapeutic clinical studies. The goals of this program are: (i) to understand the molecular events that occur during the normal differentiation of stem cell progenitors into their mature counterparts; (ii) to identify the aberrations that occur in transcriptional programming that result in the malignant phenotype with a special, but not sole, focus on the hematopoietic malignancies;(iii) to identify molecules that are novel therapeutic targets, indicators of aggressiveness of disease or reporters of response to treatment;(iv) to translate laboratory research findings into correlative and, ultimately, therapeutic trials and to enhance the effectiveness of clinical regimens with existing and new chemotherapeutics and biologicals;and (v) to encourage those Program members who share a common interest in stem cells, cellular programming, and their relationship to cancer to collaborate with each other and with the members of other programs. Human tissue research has been facilitated by the acquisition of two FACS Sorter Biosafety systems dedicated to this program, a Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Center for the development and analysis of human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells that comprises a stem cell preparation unit, a cell sorting and xenotransplantation unit, and a stem cell bioinformatics unit. There are currently 31 program members of whom 30 are primary;nine are new recruits to Einstein. Research is supported by 12 NCI grants ($2.66M DC) and 28 other cancer-relevant peer reviewed grants ($5.35M DC). Since 2008, there have been 364 cancer-relevant publications by members of this program, of which 16% represent intra- and 17% represent inter-programmatic collaborations.
This program seeks to understand the very early changes that occur in the genetic material of cells that makes them cancerous and to develop drugs that will prevent or reverse these changes. There is a particular interest in identifying the most primitive cells (called cancer stem cells) that are affected by these changes. Cancer stem cells may be the most resistant to drugs and radiation and may explain why cancers return after they initially respond to treatment.
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