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School of Medicine
Cancers of the blood and lymph or immune cells, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma are the focus of the Hematologic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplant Program. Through cross-specialty collaborations, Program scientists have built upon advances in genetic (mutations to DNA) epigenetic (chemical alterations to the environment of DNA) and immunology research to identify and target alterations that contribute to hematologic malignancies. They are studying the role of stem cells—early cells from which all other specialized cells arise—in normal and malignant blood and lymph cell growth to decipher differences in cell behavior and the ways these cells cause hematologic cancers to begin, grow and resist treatment. This laboratory research led to new therapies that target gene mutations, such as FLT3, epigenetic alterations and cancer stem cells believed to play a role in treatment resistance and cancer recurrence. Investigators are also focused on ways to alter and interfere with immune cell reactions to improve outcomes in bone marrow transplant patients and to pursue immune therapy strategies for cancers of the blood and lymph/immune cells. Their research is resulting in novel strategies for adult and pediatric hematologic malignancies and many noncancer diseases, including aplastic anemia, certain genetic diseases and sickle cell disease. Investigators pioneered haploidentical, or half-identical, bone marrow transplantation (a therapy that replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow from a living donor), making bone marrow transplant a safe and effective treatment option for virtually every patient who needs it. This has been particularly important to minorities, who are under-represented in unrelated bone marrow donor registries.