Blood and Bone Marrow Cancer Research and Treatment: A History of Excellence

Since its official inception in 1973, the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center (re-named the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in 2001) has been dedicated to better understanding human cancers and finding more effective treatments. One of only 40 cancer centers in the country designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center has active programs in clinical research, laboratory research, education, community outreach, and prevention and control. The Kimmel Cancer Center also is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in the state of Maryland.

Patients who visit the center have access to some of the most innovative and advanced therapies in the world. Because Kimmel Cancer Center research scientists and clinicians work closely together, new drugs and treatments developed in the laboratory are quickly transferred to the clinical setting, offering patients constantly improved therapeutic options and the chance to participate in innovative clinical trials. In many cases, the same physicians who treat patients also lead research protocols to develop new medications or treatments for their patients.

Our clinician scientists have made many discoveries that have helped advance cancer research worldwide, including the identification of the cell likely to be responsible for the development of multiple myeloma, the discovery that high dose cyclophosphamide can send patients with sickle cell anemia and aplastic anemia in remission, and the development of a timed sequential therapy regimen that has brought remissions for 70 percent of leukemia patients.  

Following are some research milestones in blood and bone marrow cancers:


Kimmel Cancer Center scientists demonstrate that a vaccine made with leukemia cells may be able to reduce or eliminate the last remaining cancer cells in some chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients taking the drug Imatinib mesylate (Gleevec).


Treatment of high risk AML with TST using investigational drug Flavo and followed by Ara-C and mitoxantrone (FLAM) results in high rates and durations of complete remissions.

Results of a preliminary study by scientists at the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins show that "mini" stem cell transplantation may safely reverse severe sickle cell disease in adults.


Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report evidence that cancer stem cells for multiple myeloma share many properties with normal stem cells and have multiple ways of resisting chemotherapy and other treatments, which may explain why the disease is so persistent.


Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers find that the Hedgehog signaling pathway, crucial for development of the normal embryo, regulates cancer stem cells that are responsible for the growth of multiple myeloma. By blocking this pathway with the chemical cyclopamine, researchers could block the ability of the cancer stem cells to grow and form new tumors.


Kimmel Cancer Center physicians Douglas Smith and Mark Levis conduct the first study of FLT3 inhibitor.


Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers test a vaccine to recruit the immune system in fighting chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The vaccine uses lab-grown irradiated chronic myeloid leukemia cells genetically modified with the immune-boosting gene GM-CSF. 


Kimmel Cancer Center scientists discover that high dose cyclophosphamide, without bone marrow transplant, cures aplastic anemia and several autoimmune diseases.
Kimmel Cancer Center investigators identify an FLT3 mutation and link it to a treatment-resistant form of acute myeloid leukemia. Drugs that target the mutation are developed and tested.


Kimmel Cancer Center researchers prove that high-dose cyclophosphamide therapy, administered alone (without bone marrow transplantation), is an effective therapy for many aplastic anemia patients.

Gene-based therapy targets the FLT-3 gene, the culprit in a lethal form of acute myelogenous leukemia.


The Bone Marrow Transplant IPOP Center opens, making this intensive therapy now a largely outpatient procedure.


A Johns Hopkins Cancer Center Hopkins pediatric oncologist performs the first cord blood transplant for leukemia.


Medical scientists at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center perform one of the first umbilical cord blood transplants, the first in a leukemia patient.

Cancer Center investigators demonstrate that topoisomerase inhibitors induce programmed cell death in leukemia cells.


The Hemapheresis Center now includes the unrelated bone marrow donor pool and human stem cell bank.

The Cancer Center's unrelated bone marrow donor pool produces its first match.


A clinical trial establishes that the antibiotic Norfloxacinprevents major GI tract-based infections in highly susceptible leukemia patients undergoing intensive therapy.


Timed Sequential Therapy for leukemia results in long-term remissions for a significant number of adult patients treated at the Cancer Center.


The cancer cell-purging drug 4-HC is developed at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center, making autologous (self-donor) bone marrow transplants possible.