The American Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) has awarded Saro Armenian, D.O., M.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Population Sciences, its New Investigator Award.
Given at a Feb. 28 ceremony during the group’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., the award supports research into the roots of cardiovascular disease among cancer survivors treated with hematopoietic cell transplantation. The grant consists of $30,000 each year for up to two years.
|Saro Armenian (Photo by p.cunningham)|
“I’m honored to be selected for this award, which will allow me to generate preliminary data surrounding research ideas, forming the basis for a body of work,” Armenian said.
As Armenian explained, patients who undergo hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) for cancer may later develop serious cardiovascular late effects and complications: life-threatening problems such as congestive heart failure, heart attack and stroke.
Radiation to the chest or certain chemotherapies, such as anthracyclines, given before transplantation may damage the heart and its blood vessels. In addition, after HCT, many survivors are at risk for developing new cardiovascular risk factors (such as hypertension or high levels of so-called bad cholesterol) that may accelerate progression to cardiovascular disease.
“We know that some people develop these conditions, but others do not,” Armenian said. “The question is, ‘Why are some people protected, and some aren’t?’”
Researchers believe that some patients metabolize drugs differently than others, or that some may deal with oxidative stress differently. Oxidative stress consists of cellular damage in the body caused by reactive chemicals containing oxygen; cells in one patient’s body may be more equipped to defend themselves or repair such damage than those in another.
Armenian is studying the DNA of nearly 250 adult City of Hope patients to look for genetic mutations that may make some patients more vulnerable to the oxidative stress caused by radiation or certain chemotherapy drugs.
For his study, Armenian is tracking 20 different genetic mutations in 15 candidate genes that may be involved. By examining which of these mutations occur in 63 transplant patients who developed heart disease — as well as in 186 others who stayed free of heart problems one year after transplant — he hopes to zero in on the genes that contribute most to risk.
Armenian hopes the initial data will help expand the study to patients at other institutions. Ultimately, he and his colleagues hope the research may lead to tailored screening — the ability to pinpoint patients at risk for cardiovascular side effects — better surveillance, or the selection of alternative chemotherapy drugs for patients at high risk.
ASBMT’s New Investigator Awards are given to junior-level faculty members to encourage clinical research among up-and-coming physicians in blood and bone marrow transplantation. For more information, visit www.asbmt.org.