A WSU professor has taken the lead on a budding investigation into a group of diseases that can spur the development of leukemia.
Assistant professor Grant Trobridge recently secured a three-year grant of $545,036 from the U.S. Department of Defense to study myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs), an assortment of blood cell disorders that can lead to acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
The goal of the study is to identify genes involved in the development of MDSs. Trobridge hopes his work will eventually enable pharmaceutical companies to create drugs that can stop the genes from progressing the advancement of leukemia.
“For me, this is exciting because it’s directly related to patient outcomes,” Trobridge said. “But at the same time, I think there are some very interesting basic science questions about what we call the pathogenesis of the disease: the mechanisms that are occurring to cause disease.”
With the assistance of a graduate student, a lab technician and a collaborator at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Trobridge will work on mice to identify the cancer-causing genes that are also present in humans.
“We’re working with blood cells, specifically,” he said. “What we use is mouse bone marrow to do these experiments.”
The researchers will extract bone marrow cells from the mice, and then infect the cells with a viral vector. After that, they will put the cells back into the mice. From there, Trobridge and his colleagues will be able to identify which genes help progress the development of AML.
The study will build on prior work from other researchers that has already begun to separate AML patients into groups based on variations in what genes cause the disease. Scientists have already identified some of the cancer-causing genes, but Trobridge aims to discover others that could be involved.
“What that will potentially allow us to do is divide patients up into groups that would respond differently to different therapies,” he said. “If we can better stratify these patients into different groups, we can come up with better treatments that will be more effective for that group.”
Trobridge anticipates his method of identifying the genes will also be more efficient than others.
“We’ve taken a technology that existed and made some, what we think are, improvements to it,” he said.