By Alicia Dirado and Kathleen O'Neil
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has named Ravi Bhatia, Ph.D., as one of five 2007 Stohlman Scholars, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the advancement of blood cancer research.
The selection will be officially announced at the society’s Stohlman Scholar Scientific Symposium on Nov. 8, in Anaheim, Calif.
“I am honored to be selected as a Stohlman Scholar and am very grateful to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for their longstanding support for my research program,” Bhatia said.
Bhatia serves as director of the Department of Hematopoietic Stem Cell & Leukemia Research, professor of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and co-leader of the Hematological Malignancies Program in the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
His research focuses on the regulation of healthy and malignant blood-forming cells, also known as stem and progenitor cells. In particular, his studies focus on understanding the mechanisms responsible for stem cell transformation in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and myelodysplastic syndromes, as well as the development of novel effective therapies for leukemia patients based on an improved understanding of these abnormalities.
He has extensively studied the mechanisms by which the bcr-abl oncogene causes transformation of hematopoietic cells in CML. This oncogene forms when a portion of chromosome 22 and another from chromosome 9 swap places; it is responsible for nearly all cases of CML.
In addition to illuminating how bcr-abl influences stem and progenitor cell growth in CML, Bhatia also studies how malignant stem cells evade certain cancer-fighting medications called tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which include the well-known drug imatinib (known by the trade name Gleevec). These cells become a potential source for later relapse. He is currently developing new approaches to target and eliminate these residual malignant cells in CML patients treated with imatinib, seeking to convert their remissions to possible cures.
Bhatia also is studying a cohort of lymphoma survivors at high risk for developing leukemia related to their previous lymphoma therapy. He is carefully studying the evolution of cellular and molecular abnormalities in stem cells to try to identify the very earliest events in the disease process. He and his colleagues hope the research can identify patients at highest risk or who are in the early stages of development of leukemia, as well as help develop new preventive measures or therapies.
Stohlman Scholars are Society Scholars who are in the fifth year of their research. Society Scholars are highly qualified investigators who have demonstrated their ability to conduct original research bearing on leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. These researchers hold faculty-level or equivalent positions at major research institutions, including University of Chicago, Ohio State University and University of Montreal.
“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society believes that the work of these exceptional scholars and the more than 400 gifted scientists we are supporting around the world will result in substantial improvement in the lives of patients afflicted with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma,” said Louis DeGennaro, Ph.D., the society’s chief scientific officer.
The Stohlman Scholars are named in memory of Frederick Stohlman Jr., M.D., a major figure in stem cell physiology and blood cell cancer research.