Grants - V Scholar Grants - Kentucky - 2016

Jessica Blackburn, Ph.D.

Abeloff V Scholar*

Funded by Louisville Friends of V

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is one of the most common and deadly childhood
cancers. Drugs that children are given often do not fully kill all of the leukemia cells.
A specialized cell, called a leukemia stem cell, preserves the leukemia through selfrenewal.
If one leukemia stem cell persists, the cancer can regrow and make a child
sick. Our goal is to find better ways to kill these cells so that we can cure patients.
One way that we do this is by studying leukemia stem cells in a zebrafish cancer
model, which is very similar to human disease. Here, we will use a new method to
find genes that are only expressed by leukemia stem cells. We will then look for
drugs that target these genes and can kill leukemia stem cells. The breakthroughs
that we make can be quickly applied to human disease because our studies are being
done in an animal model. Our research will give vital data about leukemia stem cells
and biology, and we hope we will discover new drugs to treat leukemia.