The awards, from the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Research Fund, are meant to further promising early-stage science that might not receive funding from traditional sources.
The recipients are:
Two of the projects are aimed at improving long-term outcomes for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. An estimated 14,000 people in the United States will die of AML this year.
Ley and Druley are working to better assess which patients with AML are more likely to relapse after initial treatment with chemotherapy. They will compare different methods for measuring lingering cancer-related mutations that signal a greater likelihood of relapse. Better detection of the residual disease could lead to more effective therapies.
Achilefu is focused on developing a new approach to treat prostate cancer using a combination of light and a photosensitizing drug to kill cancer cells. He hopes to advance the treatment of primary, microscopic and metastatic tumors without inducing drug resistance.
The method is similar to photodynamic therapy, which is effective at treating recurrent forms of superficially located cancers, such as melanoma, that are more easily penetrated by light or reached by an endoscope. Unlike conventional methods that utilize light from an external source, Achilefu will employ a safe dose of clinically available radiopharmaceuticals to serve as the light source from within the tumor cells. Such light will stimulate the photosensitizers in cancer cells, converting them into highly toxic drugs. By selectively triggering therapy inside cancer cells, Achilefu and his team hope to minimize the toxic effects of drugs to healthy tissue.
Alvin J. Siteman, an emeritus Washington University trustee and chairman of Site Oil Co., established the Siteman Cancer Research Fund in 2010. Since then, the fund has provided nearly $8.2 million in funding to nine projects at Washington University/Siteman Cancer Center. All projects are reviewed and recommended by an external review panel.