Even as Dr. Alan Friedman discusses his tremendously exciting research pursuits into some of the most challenging aspects of pediatric oncology, he never wavers from his modest, even-keeled disposition.
"We study how normal myeloid cells form in bone marrow, and how they become transformed into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We're also thinking about ways to develop 'magic bullet' drugs that target the underlying causes of transformation, either in addition to or in lieu of chemotherapy and radiation. That's the dream, and hopefully we'll get there," says Dr. Friedman matter-of-factly.
Dr. Friedman's liberal use of the term 'we' provides a subtle but certain clue to his appreciation of the collegial atmosphere among staff members at the Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. "We have a wonderful team at every level—from residents to play therapists. It's a dedication, caring, expertise, and depth that's hard to parallel," he acknowledges.
The depth of expertise shared by Dr. Friedman and his colleagues gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to treating even the toughest cases in pediatric oncology. "We have experience in not only the common situations, but also the less common situations, and are prepared to handle all eventualities to find the best path for patients," he says. This expertise has made Hopkins' pediatric oncologists like Dr. Friedman welcome contributors to national studies that examine the latest treatments under consideration.
Although he's engaged in large-scale national research efforts, Dr. Friedman's quest for better and more tolerable treatments starts close to home. "I enjoy coming to the lab, trying to guide members of my lab, and getting the knock on my door to hear about their findings—even if it's something small," Dr. Friedman says.
It's clear that to Dr. Friedman, embroiled in the massive and protracted war against cancer, every incremental achievement counts. "We've made steady but sure progress over the last ten years. We're curing more and more patients. And with modern research into genomics and chemical targeting, the hope is that we can make inroads into novel therapies," he says.
While anticipating future discoveries in pediatric oncology research, Dr. Friedman remains grounded in the pursuit by what his patients show him every day. "Their strength…is astounding," he says.
King Fahd Professor of Pediatric Oncology
Two King Fahd Professorships, one in molecular medicine and the other in pediatric oncology, represent the mutual interest and support between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The nation was governed since 1982 by King and Prime Minister Fahd Bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saudi. King Fahd, the 11th son of the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, served as minister of education before ascending to the throne. He died in 2005.
Dr. Alan Friedman is internationally renowned for his research on normal blood and stem cell development and leukemia formation. He came to Johns Hopkins as a Fellow in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology in 1986, joined the Pediatric Oncology faculty in 1989, and rose to the rank of Professor in 2008. His work focuses on how proteins within cells that bind DNA to regulate gene expression enable the formation of normal blood stem cells and white blood cells, and how mutant forms of these proteins contribute to acute myeloid leukemia. His group also seeks to develop mature blood cells from cultured stem cells for clinical application and to target mutant proteins as a novel leukemia therapy. He is a past Stohlman Scholar of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a past Searle Scholar. In addition to his lab-based research, he continues to actively engage in the care of pediatric oncology and marrow transplant patients.