Abstract: Series 107, Lecture 2

The Harvey Lectures Series 107 (2011—2012)

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Lecture #2: Thursday, November 17, 2011 — Time and Location

Human Leukemia: Many Challenging Questions

Janet D Rowley, MD

Janet D Rowley, MD

Professor, Hematology and Oncology Sections

University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

Dr Rowley's Website

Cancer/leukemia are genetic diseases; the types of genetic changes are quite variable among the same tumor type and between different tumors. Chromosome translocations, which generally involve the swapping of portions of two chromosomes, are among the most precise genetic changes identified at present. The genes involved in most translocations have been identified, and the nature of the changes and their biological consequences determined. Fortunately, there are several drugs that specially target and reverse the functional abnormalities caused by translocations. They have led to a dramatic increase in survival. Unfortunately, for most leukemias we still do not have targeted specific therapy. That is the most challenging need at present. Other unanswered questions are: (1) What causes the translocation? (2) What other genetic changes need to occur in conjunction with translocations to lead to overt leukemia and are they the same in all patients? (3) How many undiscovered recurring translocations are there that are important in the malignant process? This information is required for truly achieving personalized cancer medicine.